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Time for Saudi Arabia and Iran to 'act responsibly,' says Steinmeier

Germany's foreign minister told "Bild" newspaper that both countries must focus on solving military conflicts in the region. Tensions are worsening between Tehran and Riyadh over the execution of a prominent cleric.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday added his voice to those calling for Iran and Saudi Arabia to put aside their differences and focus instead on beating the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group.

In an interview with mass-circulation newspaper "Bild", he said "I hope that the turbulence will soon end, reason prevails [sic.] and Riyadh and Tehran focus on what's really important - defusing the military conflicts, fostering political solutions in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere and thus pulling the rug out from under IS."

His remarks following a diplomatic crisis between

Saudi Arabia and Iran

over the Sunni-majority kingdom's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and the subsequent attacks on Saudi missions in Tehran and Mashhad.

'Put differences aside'

Steinmeier told Middle East leaders that the region was somewhat indebted to the international community, which he said had "worked extensively for years to bring peace to the interrelated conflicts in the region."

"Now we need actors in the region who act responsibly, in Riyadh as well as in Tehran," he added, as tensions remained heightened following the weekend's events.

Early on Sunday, Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, in response to the cleric's killing. Al-Nimr - a longtime critic of the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom's discrimination against Shiite Muslims - was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, many of whom had been convicted on terrorism-related charges.

Kuwait severs ties

Saudi Arabia and then its Gulf Arab neighbors, including Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

severed diplomatic ties with Iran.

On Tuesday, Kuwait became the fifth country to recall its ambassador from Tehran.

Also on Tuesday, Turkey's foreign ministry called for an end to the war of words amid a worsening diplomatic stand-off.

"Turkey calls for an end to threats, and a return to diplomatic language, and urges mutual caution," said a statement from the foreign ministry in Ankara.

Some analysts believe the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran may disrail the international focus on other disputes in the region, including the fightback against IS, as well as the Syrian conflict, issues that are much closer to Turkey's borders.

On Monday, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the Middle East was "already a powder keg" before relations between the two foes broke down.

Tehran defiant

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit back at Riyadh's response to the crisis, accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to hide "its crime" of executing the cleric by cutting diplomatic ties.

"Saudi Arabia cannot hide its crime of beheading a religious leader by severing political relations with Iran," Rouhani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA in a meeting with the Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen in Tehran.

"We believe diplomacy and negotiations are the best way to solve problems between countries," he added. "Regional countries can save the region from the dangers of terrorism through unity."

The Iranian government has denounced the attack of the diplomatic missions.

mm/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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