Saudi Arabia, not Iran, is destabilising the Middle East, an official in Tehran said on Tuesday, rejecting claims from Riyadh that Iran is acting like a “colonising state”.
The comments from foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham come after Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Monday accused Iran of “meddling in the affairs” of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Relations between Iran, the region’s dominant Shiite Muslim power, and Saudi Arabia, its Sunni rival, have been fraught since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad broke out in 2011.
Iran openly backs Assad and is also accused of supporting Shiite Huthi rebels who overran large parts of Yemen last year and early this year.
Relations soured further after Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch an air campaign in Yemen.
The deaths of at least 464 Iranian pilgrims in the recent hajj stampede in Mina and further Iranian military activity in Syria saw ties plunge again, with increasingly abrasive statements from both sides.
Afkham described Jubeir’s remarks — he had said the kingdom would use all its “political, economic and military powers” to defend itself — were “despicable, arrogant and non-diplomatic”.