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Saudi backs Syria peace talks despite tensions with Iran

The Saudi foreign minister has said escalating tensions between Riyadh and Tehran would not affect Syrian peace talks. The statement comes as Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Iran in support of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Riyadh would not allow a diplomatic row with Iran from preventing a "political solution" for the conflict in Syria.

"The recent tensions that impacted the region negatively will not affect…the operations that the United Nations carries out alongside the international community to achieve a political solution in Geneva soon," al-Jubeir said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Saudi Arabia, along with several other Arab nations, implemented measures against Iran after Riyadh's embassy was torched by protesters demonstrating against the kingdom's execution of Shiite cleric and Saudi critic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

The latest country to follow suit was Kuwait, which recalled its ambassador from Iran on Tuesday, although it was unclear whether the move was indefinite or solely for consultations.

Saudi-ally Bahrain on Tuesday also suspended air links to and from Iran after it severed diplomatic relations with Shiite-majority Iran.

The conflict in Syria has left roughly half of the population being displaced

The conflict in Syria has left roughly half of the population being displaced

Losing momentum?

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said there was a clear determination on behalf of Saudi to make sure regional tensions would not impact the outcome of peace talks.

"We cannot afford to lose this momentum despite what is going on in the region," said de Mistura, after speaking with al-Jubeir.

However, the Saudi foreign minister reiterated Riyadh's position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have no role in Syria's future.

Al-Assad's role in a political solution to the Syrian conflict is controversial, with Iran and Russia both backing the Syrian president.

Meanwhile, Saudi supports rebels in the country, which witnessed government forces crack down on pro-democracy protests, prompting an all-out civil war nearly five years ago.

Riyadh also leads a coalition against Shiite forces in Yemen, which are reportedly supported by Iran.

The international community has called on both regional powers to deescalate the situation that erupted following Saturday's executions in order to bring an end to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The UN-brokered Syrian peace talks are scheduled to continue on January 25 in Geneva.

ls/rcReuters, AP, AFP, dpa)