China has expressed ‘concerns’ over the escalating tensions in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia, after both countries severed diplomatic ties with eachother following the execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
“Like the international community, China is highly concerned about the developments and expresses concern that the relevant event may intensify conflict in the region,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
She further expressed “hope the relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint, properly resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.”
On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the kingdom’s severing of diplomatic relations with Iran. In a similar move, Bahrain and Sudan also severed ties with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates also downgraded diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.
The move followed demonstrations held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Arab country’s consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud family for Nimr’s execution as part of a crackdown on Shias mostly residing in the kingdom’s Eastern Province.
Some people mounted the walls of the consulate in Mashhad while incendiary devices were hurled at the embassy in Tehran. Some 50 people were detained over the transgression.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said the Saudi bid to sever ties with the Islamic Republic shows Riyadh’s belief that the kingdom’s survival hinges on mounting tensions.
Russia also said cutting off diplomatic relations is not a “very constructive step” and would not help improve mutual understanding.
Nimr’s execution has drawn strong public and political reactions around the world. The monarchy has, however, rejected all criticisms, accusing critics of meddling in its internal affairs.
Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in Qatif, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time. He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security. He had rejected the charges as baseless.