(Photo: AA)
(Photo: AA)

Ankara, 23 Rabiul Awal 1437/5 January 2016 (MINA) – Turkey on Monday called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to ease diplomatic tensions amid revived antagonism over the execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

“We want both countries to immediately come out of this tension that will obviously add severe tension to the current one in the Middle East,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said following a Cabinet meeting in Ankara.

“The region is already on the verge of explosion,” Anadolu Agency (AA) quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

Kurtulmus said both sides, who he described as friendly countries to Turkey as well as significant nations in the Muslim world, must act with common sense.

“It will harm both countries and the region if Saudi Arabia and Iran act in a hostile attitude towards each other,” he told reporters.

Friction between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia – fierce regional rivals who support opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen – was heightened by the execution of cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Before his arrest in July 2012, al-Nimr led mass protests against the Saudi regime. He was among 47 executed on Saturday over terrorism offenses.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran following attacks on its missions in Tehran and Mashhad on Sunday. It called for diplomats to leave Iran within 48 hours and the first group arrived back in Saudi Arabia late Monday, according to the civil aviation authority.

The kingdom has also halted all flights to and from Iran, the General Authority for Civil Aviation said on its Twitter account. The authority said measures would be taken to accommodate passengers with advance bookings.

Citing the Vienna Convention, Kurtulmus called on Tehran to protect all diplomatic missions before criticizing Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004.

“The ongoing practice of death penalties, especially politically-motivated ones, will be of no contribution to the peace in the region,” he said. “We have always openly voiced our opposition to all kinds of death penalties.”

Earlier Monday, Bahrain and Sudan followed Riyadh in cutting relations with Iran and expelled Iranian ambassadors in protest at the attacks on Saudi missions. The United Arab Emirates also scaled back its diplomatic representation to Tehran.

Rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have raised concerns around the globe.

In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Riyadh’s use of the death penalty and called for improved relations.

Speaking to journalists in east London on Monday, he said: “It is hugely concerning because of course we want to see stability in the Middle East… not least because that will be absolutely essential for solving the crisis in Syria”. (T/P011/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)