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Russia concerned over rising tensions in Persian Gulf region: FM Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is concerned over the escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region, some five months after a Saudi-led quartet of Arab states imposed a tight blockade on Qatar; and amid Riyadh’s “baseless” accusations against Iran.

“The rising tensions in the Persian Gulf area cause concern. Not only in connection with Iran, but also between the Arab monarchies,” the Russian top diplomat said at meeting of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a non-profit academic and diplomatic think tank, in the capital Moscow on Tuesday.

Back on June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

Later in June, the boycotting states issued a list of demands for Qatar to meet in order for the dispute to be resolved, but Doha has refused to comply with them, slamming the demands as an attack on its sovereignty. In return, the four feuding countries vowed to impose further sanctions on Doha.

A number of attempts to heal the rift have so far been made, but all to no avail, including those of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, whose country has been playing the role of a key mediator since the beginning of the crisis.

The coordinated move against Doha is spearheaded by Riyadh, which often manages to have its vassal states fall into line. Saudi Arabia itself is known as the main sponsor of Wahhabi terrorists it has accused Qatar of supporting. Some analysts believe the Saudi anger is rather because Qatar acts independently of Riyadh, including in its relations with Iran.

Iran has taken a neutral stance in the dispute but has sent food supplies to Qatar on humanitarian grounds amid the Saudi-led siege of the country. It has also allowed Qatar’s national carrier to use its airspace.

In the past few weeks, Riyadh has made a number of accusations against Tehran, worsening the already strained bilateral relations. Earlier this month, the Saudis ramped up threats against Iran, blaming Tehran for a missile strike by the Houthi Ansarullah movement from Yemen, which reached Riyadh but was intercepted by the Saudi military. Riyadh and its allies accuse the Houthis of receiving financial and arms support from Iran. The Islamic Republic rejects the accusations, but is supportive of the defensive Yemeni campaign against the brutal Saudi invasion.

On November 19, Tehran dismissed another Saudi allegation against Iran linking the Islamic Republic to an oil pipeline fire near the Bahraini capital, Manama, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi vehemently dismissing the accusations as “delusional.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already criticized the Saudis for pursuing policies aimed at sowing discord among regional states.

The developments come as the situation in the war-torn Syria changed dramatically in favor of the government forces and terrorists were purged from almost all key positions across the country. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which had once seized large swaths of land in neighboring Iraq, has lost all its urban footholds in the Arab country during the past year, thanks to government and pro-government troops’ counterterrorism operations.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Tuesday, Lavrov, however, said that “turbulence in the Middle East still remains.”

“Although terrorists active there have suffered a significant blow, the useful experience gained by various forces has not yet led to forming a UN-supported global counterterrorism coalition, while such an initiative was put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin a few years ago,” he added.

Lavrov further warned that “under these circumstances”, acute crises in Libya, Iraq and Yemen would continue.

“Some big agreements, which we view as an example of constructive multilateral cooperation, are now in jeopardy,” the Russian foreign minister said, particularly mentioning the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The JCPOA was reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, namely the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain plus Germany, in July 2015. Under the deal, Iran undertook to apply certain limits to its nuclear program in exchange for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.

Several official reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have so far confirmed Iran’s full commitment to its side of the bargain.

However, on October 13, US President Donald Trump refused to formally certify that the Islamic Republic was complying with the deal, warning that he might ultimately “terminate” it.

Trump further said he was directing his administration “to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws.” The US Congress has until mid-December to decide whether to re-impose the economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the accord.

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