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Qatar recalls envoy to Iran

The execution of Nimr al-Nimr exposed the sectarian divisions gripping the region. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2016

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Qatar recalled its ambassador to Iran on Wednesday, state news agency, after allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut their ties with Tehran earlier.

Qatar recalled its ambassador to Iran on Wednesday, state news agency QNA said following attacks on Saudi missions by Iranian protesters, angered by the execution of a Shia cleric. 

"The ministry summoned this morning Qatar's ambassador to Tehran against the backdrop of attacks on the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Tehran...," the agency quoted Khalid Ibrahim Abdulrahman Al-Hamar, the director of the Asian Affairs Department, as saying.       

Allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom's lead and on Monday began scaling down their diplomatic ties to Iran in the wake of the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic, violence that was sparked by the Saudis' execution of a prominent Shia cleric.  

Bahrain announced it would sever its ties completely from Iran, as Saudi Arabia did late on Sunday.   

Within hours, the United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade its own diplomatic ties to Tehran, bringing them down to the level of the charge d'affaires and would from now on focus entirely on the business relationships between the two countries.  

The Saudi decision to halt diplomatic relations came after its the mass execution Saturday of cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others the largest carried out by Saudi Arabia in three and a half decades laid bare the sectarian divisions gripping the region. 

Al-Nimr was a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia's Shia minority until his arrest in 2012.  

World powers have sought to calm the tensions, with a Russian state news agency on Monday quoting an unnamed senior diplomat as saying Moscow is ready to act as a mediator in the escalating conflict. The RIA Novosti news agency did not say whether Moscow had made the mediation proposal to either side. 

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the Obama administration believes "diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences." 
 

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