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Exclusive: Saudi Arabia to halt flights, trade with Iran

by admin   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

An Iranian cleric holds a picture of prominent Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration against the execution of al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, at Imam Hussein square in Tehran January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

An Iranian cleric holds a picture of prominent Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration against the execution of al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, at Imam Hussein square in Tehran January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

Saudi Arabia widened its rift with Iran on Monday, saying it would end air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic and demanding that Tehran must “act like a normal country” before it would restore severed diplomatic relations.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters in an interview that Tehran was responsible for rising tensions after the kingdom executed Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, describing him as a terrorist.

Insisting Riyadh would react to “Iranian aggression”, he accused Tehran of dispatching fighters to Arab countries and plotting attacks inside the kingdom and its Gulf neighbors.

“There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia. Our moves are all reactive. It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” Jubeir said.

Tehran says it has sent only military advisers to Syria and Iraq at their governments’ requests, and denies plots in Gulf states.

The execution of Nimr provoked protests among Shi’ites across the region and Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fires and causing damage, prompting Riyadh to cut ties and inflaming an already heated rivalry.

“We will also be cutting off all air traffic to and from Iran. We will be cutting off all commercial relations with Iran. And we will have a travel ban against people traveling to Iran,” Jubeir said.

Iranian pilgrims would still be welcome to visit Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina in western Saudi Arabia, either for the annual haj or at other times of year on the umrah pilgrimage, he said.

However, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia had been right to execute Nimr, whom he accused of “agitating, organizing cells, providing them with weapons and money” – allegations that the cleric’s family have denied.

After listing the crimes of 43 al Qaeda members also put to death on Saturday alongside four Shi’ites, Jubeir said of the executions: “We should be applauded for this, not criticized.”

‘AGGRESSIVE POLICIES’

Jubeir, a former ambassador to Washington where the FBI in 2011 said he had been the target of an Iranian assassination plot, said the break in ties was a response to older problems as well as the embassy storming.

“[It] is a reaction to Iran’s aggressive policies over the years, and in particular over the past few months. The Iranian regime has been a sponsor of terrorism, they have set up terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries,” he said.

Tehran has consistently denied those charges and itself has accused Riyadh of supporting militancy through its backing of Islamist rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Jubeir also accused Iran’s authorities of complicity in the attack on the embassy at the weekend, saying Saudi diplomats had seen security forces enter the building and take part in looting and that the police did not respond to more than one request for help.

Iran has defended its measures to protect the Saudi embassy, saying it is investigating the matter and has made arrests.

Asked what steps Iran needed to take before Riyadh would consider restoring diplomatic ties, Jubeir said Tehran must “respect international norms and treaties and conventions” and “act like a normal country [that] respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors”.

(Editing by William Maclean, David Stamp and Pravin Char)

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Iran ready to talk to U.S. if sanctions lifted

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at televised address | Courtesy: Reuters footage

Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday (July 14).

“When a big power that is a bully, well then we have to stand up to it. It must stop being a bully. We have always believed in talks. Always, right this hour, right this moment, if they stop the oppression, if they stop the belligerence, if they lift sanctions, return to the table, return to to logic; we are ready,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vin Shahrestani)

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Netanyahu calls on Europe to back Trump’s sanctions on Iran

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commenting on Iran at the Christians United for Israel Conference in Washington via satellite link from Jerusalem | Courtesy: Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday (July 8) again called on Europe to impose punitive sanctions on Tehran after Iran said it is fully prepared to enrich uranium at any level and with any amount, in further defiance of U.S. efforts to squeeze it with sanctions.

Speaking at the Christians United for Israel summit in Washington, Netanyahu said Europe needed to respond by joining President Donald Trump in imposing sanctions.

“We should stand up to Iran’s aggression now, and Europe should back the sanctions instituted by President Trump. We certainly do,” Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast live at the summit via satellite link from Jerusalem.

Senior Iranian officials said Tehran, which has denied seeking nuclear arms, would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days unless signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal moved to protect it from U.S. sanctions.

If any one of the three European parties to the accord believe Iran has violated the agreement, they can trigger a dispute resolution process that could, within as few as 65 days, end at the U.N. Security Council with a reimposition of U.N. sanctions on Tehran. (REUTERS)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

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DFA: Filipino seafarers unharmed after attack in Gulf of Oman

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that all Filipino seafarers of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 are “unharmed and in good condition.”

According to the DFA, Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Hjayceelyn Quintana has already met with the 11 seafarers of the MT Front Altair and the 21 Filipino seafarers of the MT Kokuka Courageous in two separate meetings through the kind assistance of UAE authorities to check on their condition and offer the needed assistance.

“The seafarers are appreciative of the concern extended to them by the Philippine government and all those involved in their rescue. The manning agencies are now looking after the crews’ well being and are dealing with their repatriation,” the DFA said in its bulletin.

Japan’s Kokuka Courageous, carrying a large shipment of methanol and Norwegian-owned oil tanker MT Front Altair, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman about 18 meters apart, according to reports.

Both tankers were heading for Asia.

MT Front Altair has safely landed in Dubai on Saturday (June 15) while MT Kokuka Courageous has also docked at the designated anchorage at Sharjah, according to the vessel’s ship management based in Singapore.

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