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January 5, 2016 9:43 pm

'Saudi severing Iran ties deeply worrying'

UNITED NATIONS:-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Saudi Arabia’s severing of diplomatic relations with Iran is "deeply worrying."

"The Secretary General reiterated that the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran was deplorable, but added that the announcement of a break in Saudi diplomatic relations with Tehran was deeply worrying," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Monday.

He said the UN chief made the remarks in a Monday telephone conversation with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and added that Ban also spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday.

Dujarric said that the UN chief called on the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers to avoid any move that could further exacerbate the situation between the two countries and in the region as a whole.

"He stressed the importance of continued constructive engagement by both countries in the interest of the region and beyond," the spokesman added.

On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister announced the kingdom's severing of diplomatic relations with Iran following Tehran's strong condemnation of the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

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 the killing of the top cleric 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. 

Dujarric said the point of Ban's calls was to help ensure that both Tehran and Riyadh remain committed to their role in settling the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

He noted that UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, would pay visits to Tehran and Riyadh this week.

De Mistura "will assess the implications of the recent developments between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the momentum of the [peace] process for Syria," the UN spokesman said.

The conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to the United Nations.

The world body says 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. The foreign-sponsored militancy has also displaced 7.6 million people.

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