Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jubeir tells Iran to stop ‘meddling’ in Iraqi affairs

Adel Al-Jubeir, speaking on a World Economic Forum panel about the situation in the Middle East, said the Islamic Republic was responsible for much of the unrest in the Middle East. (Screenshot: WEF)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jubeir tells Iran to stop ‘meddling’ in Iraqi affairs

  • Said the Islamic Republic was responsible for much of the unrest in the Middle East
  • Added Kingdom takes its relationship with Iraq “very seriously”

LONDON: Iran should worry more about its own people and stop sponsoring global terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.
Adel Al-Jubeir, speaking on a World Economic Forum panel about the situation in the Middle East, said the Islamic Republic was responsible for much of the unrest in the region and that leaders in Tehran were the ones who began escalating tensions through their interference in countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
He added that the Kingdom was concerned about Iranian “meddling” in Iraqi affairs and that it takes its relationship with Iraq “very seriously,” given the long cultural ties and “brotherly relations” between the two countries.
Al-Jubeir also told the audience in Davos that Iranian interference in the region was widespread and unpopular and that it must be stopped, citing examples of Shiite protests in Iraq and Lebanon.
“We do not seek escalation and we are still investigating the Aramco attacks,” he added, referencing drone attacks on oil facilities in the Kingdom in September widely believed to have originated from Iran.
“Iran is behind the Houthi militia missiles coming from Yemen that are targeting Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Saudi minister added that while Iran has sought the withdrawal of US forces in the Middle East, its ongoing malign behavior in the region has seen the opposite happen.
Following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassam Soleimani, Iranian officials vowed to remove US forces from the Gulf region.
Al-Jubeir also said that as soon as Iran returned to being a “normal state,” then a restoration of international relations with Tehran would be possible.
When asked about the conflict in Yemen, Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom was working to bring stability back to the country and referenced recent goodwill gestures — including helping humanitarian aid get into the country and the release of 400 Houthi prisoners.
He said Saudi Arabia has reassured the Houthis that they have an “integral role” to play in the future of Yemen, but that they cannot have a “monopoly” on power, adding emphatically: “There will be no new Hezbollah In Yemen.”
Al-Jubeir also said Saudi Arabia was working with Arab and international countries to stabilize the situation in Libya and unify the country, but added the Kingdom was concerned about external interventions and the inflow of foreign troops from Syria into Libya.

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Window for containing coronavirus in Mideast closing -WHO

Updated 16 min 33 sec ago

Window for containing coronavirus in Mideast closing -WHO

  • Says virus cases in Middle East doubled in a week, nearing 60,000 
  • On March 26, global COVID-19 cases crossed the 1 million mark

CAIRO: Governments in the Middle East need to act fast to limit the spread of the coronavirus after cases rose to nearly 60,000, almost double their level a week earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
“New cases have been reported in some of the most vulnerable countries with fragile health systems,” said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO’s director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Djibouti, as well as Middle Eastern states.
“Even in countries with stronger heath systems, we have seen a worrying spike in the numbers of cases and deaths reported,” he said in a statement.
Outside of Iran, which has reported just over 50,000 cases, confirmed coronavirus numbers have been relatively low in the Middle East compared to Europe, the United States and Asia.
But health officials fear that cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus are under-reported and that many countries with weak governments and health systems eroded by conflict will struggle to cope.
“I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation,” said Mandhari. “The increasing numbers of cases show that transmission is rapidly occurring at local and community levels.”
“We still have a window of opportunity, but this window is slowly closing day by day,” he added.
The total number of cases in the region has risen to 58,168 from 32,442 on March 26, the WHO said, on a day when global COVID-19 cases crossed the 1 million mark.
One of the countries worst affected by conflict is Yemen, where the World Bank said on Thursday it would provide $26.9 million in emergency funding to help the WHO and local authorities improve capacity for detecting, containing and treating the coronavirus.
Yemen has not confirmed any coronavirus cases but is seen as especially vulnerable because a five-year conflict has brought its health system to the brink of collapse.
It has already been struggling with overlapping infectious diseases including cholera, diphtheria and dengue fever, and large numbers of people have been displaced by the war.
About 24 million out of a population of 29 million need humanitarian assistance. There are no doctors in 18% of the country’s districts, most health care workers have not been paid for at least two years, and COVID-19 testing kits are available for just 600 people, according to the World Bank.
“The epidemic does pose unique public health risks in Yemen … given the already weak health system and the high vulnerability among the population,” said Marina Wes, the bank’s country director.