UN fears Saudi-Iran fallout on Syria, Yemen

UN fears Saudi-Iran fallout on Syria, Yemen
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir.

United Nations - UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura travelled to Riyadh for urgent talks and was to head later this week to Tehran.

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Published: Mon 4 Jan 2016, 10:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 5 Jan 2016, 12:47 AM

The United Nations moved quickly on Monday to shelter peace efforts in Syria and Yemen from the diplomatic storm unleashed by the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura travelled to Riyadh for urgent talks and was to head later this week to Tehran to seek assurances that hard-fought gains in the Syria peace process had not been derailed.
De Mistura is counting on broad support to launch peace talks between President Bashar Al Assad's government and the opposition in Geneva on January 25 - the culmination of a three-month effort involving all key players.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke by phone with the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers to urge them to "avoid any actions that could further exacerbate the situation between two countries and in the region as a whole," said Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
"A breakdown of relations between Riyadh and Tehran could have very serious consequences for the region," said Dujarric.
Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have a crucial role in the diplomatic push to end the nearly five-year war in Syria and to bring about a political settlement for Yemen.
After protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran, giving diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
While the UN chief said the Iranian attack on the Saudi embassy was "deplorable," the Saudi decision to break off relations with Tehran was "deeply worrying," Ban told Saudi foreign minister.
Ban spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday and urged him to protect diplomatic facilities after the attack on the Saudi embassy.
In a conciliatory sign, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, pledged in a letter to Ban on Monday that "Iran will take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future."
The Saudi-Iran rift was seen by UN diplomats as a potential setback to the peace effort in Syria, where Tehran is among Assad's strongest allies while Riyadh is backing militias fighting Damascus.
De Mistura "believes that the crisis in Saudi-Iranian relations is a very worrisome development and stresses the need to ensure it does not cause a chain of adverse consequences in the region," said Dujarric.
Turning to Yemen, Ban urged Saudi Arabia "to renew its commitment to a ceasefire" after the Riyadh-led coalition announced on Saturday that it was ending the truce with Iran-backed rebels in the country.
The UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, heads to Riyadh on Wednesday to push for a renewed ceasefire.

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