Press Conference on the Attack on the Saudi Mission in Iran
Press Conference on the attack on the Saudi mission in Iran
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Amb. Osama Nugali
In the name of God,
I would first like to welcome you, and present to you in detail the developments of the aggressive events at the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and general consulate in Mashhad. The minister will join the conference later, to talk about developments and updates of the issue.
With regard to the attacks on the two Saudi missions, the sequence of events were as follows (all times are Tehran time):
On Saturday morning, January 2, 2016, the Embassy in Tehran received several phone calls threatening to kill embassy employees.
Promptly at 2:20 p.m. crowds started to gather in front of the embassy. The Chargé d'affaires immediately contacted the Iranian Foreign Ministry to inform them and to request protection for the embassy, but did not get any response.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., another crowd gathered in front of the embassy and began throwing stones and petrol bombs at the embassy.
At about 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, January 3, the crowd protesting in front of the embassy was replaced with a new group. Two members of the new group broke into the embassy building and burned a section of the building.
Around 2:30 a.m. crowds broke into the embassy building. The Chargé contacted the Iranian Foreign Ministry again, but he did not get any response.
The Chargé tried to seek protection to inspect damages at the embassy, but he could not do so until Sunday evening, January 3. The building was in ruins and its content looted.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, January 3, power was cut off for about an hour to the neighborhood where the embassy staff resides.
With regard to the attacks on the Consulate General in Mashhad, events took place as follows:
At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 2, 2016, a taxi broke through the outer security barrier gate at the consulate without being blocked by the Iranian authorities in attempt to break through the inner gate of the consulate.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 2, crowds of approximately 2,000 people gathered in front of the consulate building and began throwing stones and petrol bombs at the consulate building. A number of people unsuccessfully attempted to break into the building. The Iranian authorities did not make any effort to prevent such criminal acts or arrest perpetrators.
This is not the first time that Saudi missions in Tehran and Mashhad encountered such attacks. It was preceded by similar attacks over the past years under the watchful eyes of the Iranian government and without taking any measures to maintain the security and integrity of the Saudi missions and its personnel, or to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Based on these attacks, the Kingdom took the following actions:
First: Iranian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, January 2, 2016, and was handed a memorandum of condemnation putting full responsibility for these attacks on the Iranian regime for failing to live up to their responsibility as a host country to provide protection to foreign missions according to international conventions and laws in this regard.
Second: The Kingdom has informed the UN Security Council of these attacks and also briefed the GCC, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and requested the UN Security Council to ensure the protection of diplomatic missions and their staff in accordance with the international conventions and laws.
Third: The Kingdom was in contact with all friendly countries to clarify the aggressive statements made by the Iranian government and the provoking that led to the outrage against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and Consulate General in Mashhad.
Fourth: An emergency evacuation plan was put in place in response to the crisis to evacuate the family members of Embassy and consulate staff. A plan was in place to evacuate them on Emirate Airlines departing Tehran on Saturday at 7:20 p.m. GMT. However, Iranian authorities blocked their departure on the schedule flight. They are now scheduled to leave Tehran at 10:00 p.m. GMT. We would like to thank the United Arab Emirates for its help in the evacuation process from Iran.
We also thank the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the League of Arab States, and a number of countries for their strong positions against the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic mission in Iran.
In conclusion I would like to note that none of the members of the diplomatic mission in Tehran and Mashhad have been harmed. The Kingdom is keen to ensure the safety and security of the staff that remains in Iran.
Thank you, and the Minister will join the conference shortly.
His Excellency Adel Al-Jubeir
Foreign Minister, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
After you have been briefed on the details of the attacks on the Saudi missions in Iran, I would like to point out that the Iranian regime has a long record in the inviolability of foreign diplomatic missions, including, for example, the attack on the US embassy in 1979, and attack on the British Embassy in 2011, and yesterday, the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and general consulate in Mashhad.
These ongoing attacks on diplomatic missions constitute a flagrant violation of all international agreements, charters and treaties.
Also, these attacks come after aggressive statements issued by prominent Iranian figures, a blatant provocation that encouraged attacks on the Kingdom's missions.
These attacks are considered a continuation of Iranian regime’s aggressive policy in the region, which aims to destabilize the security and stability, and to provoke conflict and wars.
And this is confirmed with the Iranian regime providing a safe haven on its territory for al-Qaeda leaders since 2001. The Iranian regime has also provided protection for a number of those involved in the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996.
In addition to these acts of aggression, the Iranian regime is smuggling weapons and explosives and planting terrorist cells in the region, including the Kingdom, to spread turmoil.
The history of Iran is full of negative and aggressive interferences in the affairs of Arab countries, and is always accompanied by devastation and destruction, and killing of innocent lives.
The Kingdom, under these facts, announces the severance of diplomatic relations with Iran, and requests all members of the Iranian diplomatic mission (embassy - consular - of the two offices) to leave within 48 hours.
The Iranian Ambassador has been informed of this.
Q&A with Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir
Question: (Hazem Sharkawy, Akhbar Al-Yawm): First, is the Iranian ambassador be expelled from Saudi Arabia? Second, how long will this humiliation of Arabs last? We are letting Arab countries fall, and Arab capitals are target of Persians, ISIS, and al-Qaeda outstretch. Do not you think that it is time to form the unified Arab Force, which spreads from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf?
Minister Al-Jubeir: With regard to the Arab movement, there are now many movements in the Arab region. Saudi Arabia is very keen on the security and stability of the whole region and eager to respond to the Iranian aggression in the region.
I have previously spoke about this. I believe that Iran’s interference in the region does not serve the interests of Iran nor serves the security and stability. There has been progress regarding Iran’s attempts to spread or extend its influence in the region. For example, Iran was defeated in Yemen, thankfully. In Syria, the Iranians were not able to save Al-Assad’s regime, so came the Russian intervention. In Iraq, we see a strong resistance by all of Iraq's communities against Iranian interference in the region.
We see an Iranian retreat in Africa and Asia. We see reactions in a number of Muslim countries. I do not agree with the view that Arab or Muslim countries have become prey to Iran. This is not true and reality proves differently. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports the Joint Arab Force. The Kingdom have sought and works for the establishment of an Islamic Military Alliance, to counter terrorism and extremism, and joined by more than 35 countries. It would have an operations room in Riyadh and will work on two tracks: a military security path and intellectual path. The purpose of this alliance is to combine the capabilities of the Islamic world, to confront terrorism and extremism via security, military, by training, politically, intellectually, by addressing the financing of terrorism, the media and other means. I think the Muslim countries realize the importance of countering terrorism and extremism. I believe the Arab world realizes the seriousness of Iran's interference in the affairs of the region, and there are moves to address it.
Question: (Huda Saleh, Al-Arabiya.net): What is your comment on the response of the US Department of State regarding the execution of Nimr Al-Nimr especially that they said it will contribute to the sectarian tensions in the region and to Ban Ki-moon’s condemnation? Is there a unified Gulf stance on severing ties with Iran, or is it the position of Saudi Arabia only?
Minister Al-Jubeir: With regard to the statements of the spokesperson of the US Department of State, we explained to the US that Saudi Arabia has an independent and fair judicial system. We do not accept any criticism of the Kingdom’s judicial system. What happened was that those who have led terrorist operations that led to the killing of innocent people, were convicted. They had transparent and fair trials by the judicial system in Saudi Arabia. These cases passed through all legal stages, as stated clearly in the joint press conference of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior. These rules should not be linked to any sect, region or ethnicity. These are terrorists convicted of involvement in operations led to the killing of innocent people regardless of their background. That’s what happened and Saudi Arabia does not accept the interference in its judicial system, as we respect the judiciary systems in other countries. It should be explained to all countries that have positions on this matter.
Question: (Angus McDowall, Reuters) in English: Are there any further Steps that you can contemplate if Iran escalates this diplomatic crisis? What’s left to you on the table beyond cutting diplomatic ties?
Minister Al-Jubeir: We will cross each bridge when we get to it. We are determined not to allow Iran to undermine our security. We are determined not to let Iran mobilize or create or establish terrorist cells in our country or in the countries of our allies. We will push back against Iran’s attempts to do so. We want to make it very clear that there is no space in the community of nations for a country that condones terrorism, that supports terrorism and that engages in terrorism. We have decided that the best way for us to highlight this is by cutting off our relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran so long as it continues to sponsor terrorism and engage in an aggressive behavior towards us and our neighbors. We believe that other countries of the world should look at this step and should seriously consider continuing to deal with a regime that promotes murder both domestically, regionally and internationally, is a regime they want to work with.
Question: (Abdulhadi Al Habtoor, Al-Hayat newspaper & AFP): Your Excellency, statements were released today from Iraqi officials calling to attack Saudi interests in Iraq and in other countries. How do you see these threats, and is Saudi Arabia going to withdraw its mission in Baghdad as a precaution?
Minister Al-Jubeir: We take at all these threats seriously and we communicated with the Iraqi government about it. The Iraqi government has confirmed its commitment to international laws that require protection of diplomatic missions and accredited diplomats in Iraq. Also, it ensured that it will do everything possible to provide them with protection. Without doubt, we must deal with any threat seriously, but Saudi Arabia is committed and determined to continue on its path to face terrorism in all its forms and will not allow anyone to assault our territory or people. There is a question in regard to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Today we have announced that Saudi Arabia cuts ties with Iran, but there was no preceding coordination with the GCC. The General Secretariat of the GCC issued today a joint statement condemning the Iranian position and the Iranian interference and the violation of the sanctity of the Embassy and the Consulate General in Mashhad. Many countries in the world has supported the Kingdom’s position and criticized the Iranian position. Saudi Arabia made this decision based on the interests of the Kingdom and on what it see serves the interests of the Kingdom and confirms the Kingdom's refusal to deal with a state that sponsors terrorism causing the killing of innocent people in Saudi Arabia, and spreads chaos and sectarianism in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The Kingdom has taken this position accordingly.
Question: (Nayef Al Rasheed, Asharq Alawsat): Was there an instigation from the Iranian government to the attack on the embassy? Did you get information in this regard? I want further clarification, are there Saudis still at the embassy or the consulate?
Minister Al-Jubeir: With respect to investigations, it was explained to you by Ambassador Osama Nugali, that there was loud provocations and demonstrations in front of the embassy and when we asked the Iranian authorities yesterday afternoon to provide security at the embassy, they did not respond to us. This is an indicator. We repeated the requests after several hours and the Iranian authorities did not respond. The situation is obvious. After breaking into the embassy and entering the building security forces entered the embassy. Saudi diplomats were not able to enter the embassy building until 2 a.m. today. We have noticed replacement of demonstrators in front of the embassy. That’s strange. Those who entered the embassy came out with computers and documents. This is not acceptable. If the Iranian government were not involved in these operations, it is at fault for not protecting a diplomatic mission on its territory.
Question: (Awad Al-Qahtani, Al-Jazirah newspaper): Will you file a lawsuit in the United Nations against Iran for such actions?
Minister Al-Jubeir: Saudi Arabia is now considering all available options, both at the level of the Arab League level or the Islamic Cooperation Organization or the United Nations. We will do all we can to guarantee our rights and to guarantee the future steps of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The goal is to protect the interests of the Kingdom, and the Saudi people and the territory of the Kingdom and to provide support and assistance to allied countries against negative Iranian actions. Thank you.