Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it was cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran after the Saudi Embassy was the scene of angry protests late Saturday, Press TV reported.
Tehran has strongly objected to the execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others, who were convicted of being involved in “terrorism” and adopting a “Takfiri” ideology.
A US official, speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, blamed Riyadh for stoking tensions by executing Sheikh Nimr, a strong critic of the kingdom’s policies.
“This is a dangerous game they are playing,” the official told the Post. “There are larger repercussions than just the reaction to these executions,” including damage to “counter-ISIL initiatives as well as the Syrian peace process.”
The Riyadh regime has been pressing Washington for a more muscular response in Syria, including a direct military engagement, to remove President Bashar al-Assad. The two allies have also been backing terrorists fighting the Syrian government.
The US has been a chief supporter of the Saudi military aggression in Yemen, providing the kingdom with logistics, intelligence and weapons.
Another Obama administration official urged diplomatic engagement and called on leaders in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, to take steps to reduce tensions.
"We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences and we will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions," the official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
A senior Iranian diplomat said that this is not the first time Saudi Arabia has threatened regional security with its “strategic errors” and “hasty approaches.”
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, stressed Sunday that Riyadh cannot cover up its “big mistake” by severing ties with Tehran.
Nimr’s execution has drawn strong public and political reactions around the world. The Saudi monarchy, however, has rejected all the criticism, accusing critics of meddling in its internal affairs.
Calls for talks
Russia has reportedly expressed readiness to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia after Riyadh announced severance of diplomatic ties.
"As friends we would be ready to play, if it is demanded, an intermediary role in ... settling the existing contradictions and any new ones that arise between these two countries," RIA Novosti quoted a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying on Monday.
“We express sincere regrets over the escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran because we believe these two large Muslim countries are very influential in the region, on the global arena and on the oil market,” the source added.
The source also emphasized that Moscow expects Riyadh and Tehran to continue their participation in the international talks on Syria to help end the crisis in the Arab country.
Germany also called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to engage in talks and use “all possibilities” to improve their bilateral relations.
“We urge both countries to engage in dialogue,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on Iran and Saudi Arabia to exercise more "restraint and dialogue" following growing tension between the two countries.
In two separate telephone conversations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, Kurz underlined the importance of restraint and dialogue between Tehran and Riyadh.
"Both foreign ministers gave the assurance that no one can have an interest in a further escalation," a spokesman for Kurz quoted him as saying after the Austrian foreign minister spoke with his Iranian and Saudi counterparts.