Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, the kingdom’s defense minister, said it was impossible to mend relations between his country and Iran due to Tehran’s “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world,” he said in an interview with MBC television, broadcasted by Saudi media.
“How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on an extremist ideology? What are the interests between us? How can I come to an understanding with this?” he said, according to AP.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said that such remarks showed that the Saudi authorities lacked an understanding of regional issues and intended to seek “confrontational and destructive policies.”
“These comments are proof that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism and seeks confrontational and destructive policies in the region and towards Iran,” Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media, Reuters reported.
“While Western Asia is filled with tension and needs cooperation and understanding among countries, making such comments is a strategic mistake and lacks political sensibility,” Qasemi said.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh.
After that, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister accused Iran of setting up “terrorist cells” inside the kingdom. Iran responded with a warning that “divine vengeance” would come to Saudi Arabia as a punishment for Nimr’s execution as well as for Riyadh’s bombings in Yemen and support for the Bahraini government.
In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, while on a visit in Kuwait, a Saudi ally, said that Tehran would like to restore relations and improve ties with all its Gulf Arab neighbors.
Leaked E-mails Show Belgium Made Sure Saudis Knew it Voted Regime onto U.N. Women’s Rights Commission: UN Watch Reported
Internal emails reveal that Belgium instructed its diplomats to vote Saudi Arabia onto the U.N. women’s rights commission — and to make sure the fundamentalist regime knew of Belgium’s support.
7sur7 accessed to emails of Belgium foreign ministry confirming the deliberate and conscious decision of the administration to vote for Saudi’s seat in U.N. commission despite its lack of respect for women’s rights in the Kingdom as reported by UN Watch.
At least nine hours passed between the time when the cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of the request of a vote at the United Nations Commission for Women’s Rights and the time when it was answered, as confirmed Friday by the Ecologists’ party, based on internal emails.
According to the Green Party, the Belgian delegation to the United Nations in New York informed the cabinet of Didier Reynders on April 9 at 12:33 a.m. of the request for a vote from the United Nations about the entry of Saudi Arabia into the commission. The response was sent at 3:34 p.m. Uncertainty remains about the way the time delay should be considered, but at the very least, nine hours had passed.
“This gives a false image of the foreign office”
According to these documents, the cabinet’s reply, written in the first person, mentions the following elements. The “clean slate” procedures should be followed and Belgium should therefore provide its support to the candidates for the various positions during the secret vote. Furthermore, the delegation was requested to inform the various candidates, including Saudi Arabia, of this support if possible.
According to the minutes from a meeting that took place at the foreign office yesterday (see the tweet from Kristof Calvo below), the administration complained about the communication about this affair and implied that Reynders was indeed aware of it. “Some press information insinuates that our Permanent Mission in New York may have acted on its own initiative, and that the Ministry may have not been aware of it. This give a false image of the foreign office as a completely uncontrolled organization.”
Reynders maintains, “I was not aware”
Questioned Friday after the council of ministers, before this information came to light, Mr. Reynders indicates that three hours had passed and that it was not personally aware of this request for a vote.
“My cabinet and the delegation on site followed the usual procedure. I was not aware of it,” he said.
“What we fear since the revelation of this affair has turned out to be true. The cabinet of Didier Reynders gave the green light to a shameless vote, scorning women’s rights, with the aim of getting in the good books of a notoriously no-go country in order to facilitate the election of Belgium to the UN Security Council. Who is responsible for this decision? The Minister of Foreign Affairs himself,” accused Deputy Benoît Hellings.
Questioned Wednesday at the Chamber Committee, the minister indicated that he was not aware of the American request for a vote, “but saw that it was possible for our department to vote” before indicating the next day that he was not “personally aware of the voting procedure underway” but that “the departments and partners of Foreign Affairs applied the procedure in a very professional manner.” At the plenary session, Prime Minister Charles Michel spoke of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the minister’s cabinet.
“Our diplomats applied formal orders and must not be used as a fuse to cover their minister,” said Deputy Jean-Marc Nollet, who asked the Prime Minister to clarify his position. “Either Didier Reynders misled him, or Charles Michel was hiding something from the deputies.”
The Belium support for Saudi Arabi is in contradiction with the reports of security and intelligence centers of the country. On February Belgium voiced concerns over the spread of Saudi-backed Wahhabism throughout the country and the rest of Europe. According to a report by De Standaard, the country’s OCAM national crisis center stressed that Wahhabism is being preached in an increasing number of the country’s mosques receiving financial support from Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudi authorities and the Wahhabist establishment have clearly settled on this method to reinforce the influence of the doctrine and practice of Wahhabism in Muslim communities in Europe,” it stressed.
According to officials, Belgium has the highest amount of extremists leaving the country and joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq in proportion to is population.
*(Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium speaks during the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council. 28 february 2017. Image credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré/ flickr.)