Riyadh – Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud Salman on Thursday urged his Iranian rival to end his “negative behavior” in the region, after Riyadh accused Tehran of helping Yemeni rebels launch attacks murderous against his country.
However, the monarch, who turns 86 on Friday, appeared to soften his hawkish tone towards the Islamic republic, after urging world powers last year to take a “tough stand” against Tehran.
King Salman, addressing the Shura Council, the government’s main advisory body, for virtually the second year in a row, spoke for less than four minutes.
He read slowly on a white sheet of paper, sometimes stopping, in a speech broadcast three hours after the originally scheduled time.
The official Saudi news agency then released the king’s full statement.
“We hope that (Iran) will change its policy and negative behavior in the region, and move towards dialogue and cooperation,” he said, according to the statement.
âWe follow with great concern the destabilizing policy of the Iranian regime in matters of security and safety in the region. “
Riyadh and Tehran have been bitter enemies for decades, taking opposing positions in a series of regional conflicts, most notably in Yemen where Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The two sides have held several rounds of talks since April aimed at improving their relationship.
King Salman, however, accused Iran of “establishing and supporting” sectarian and armed groups in the region.
âWe are also following the Iranian regime’s support for the Houthi terrorist militia, which prolongs the war in Yemen and worsens the humanitarian situation there, while threatening the security of the kingdom. “
Yemen has been ravaged by civil war since 2014, pitting the government – backed by the Saudi-led coalition – against the Houthi Shiites who control much of the north of the country, including the capital Sana’a.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 80% of Yemen’s population dependent on aid.
The coalition on Sunday accused Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group of helping the Houthis launch missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia, where two people were killed last week.
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of providing the Houthis with sophisticated weapons and its Hezbollah proxy of training insurgents.
Tehran denies the accusations, while Hezbollah dismissed them as “ridiculous”.
Regarding oil, King Salman said Riyadh was “keen to maintain the OPEC + agreement due to its essential role in stabilizing the oil markets”, stressing the importance of the engagement of all participating countries in the OK.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers agreed this month to stick to production increases slated for January, despite economic uncertainties over the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
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Saudi Arabia, Iran