Iran on Tuesday dismissed accusations by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince that it had launched a “direct military aggression” after a missile fired by Tehran-backed Yemeni rebels was intercepted near Riyadh.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking by phone with his British counterpart Boris Johnson, said “the allegations by Saudi officials were contrary to reality and dangerous,” according to a foreign ministry spokesman.
Zarif also slammed “provocative actions by the Saudi government in the region,” spokesman Bahram Ghassemi added.
Houthi rebels in Yemen, the targets of a two-year Saudi-led bombing campaign, fired a missile on Saturday that was intercepted and destroyed near Riyadh international airport. The attack sparked a bitter war of words between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and its top regional rival, predominantly Shia Iran.
“The involvement of Iran in supplying missiles to the Houthis is a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the official Saudi Press Agency quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying. This “could be considered an act of war,” he said.
Riyadh has accused Tehran of supplying the Shia rebel group with arms, but a senior Iranian official on Monday rejected such accusations. “It is very childish to say that Iran has sent missiles to Yemen,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
He said ships in the surrounding waters were on high alert and ready to intercept such deliveries. “The Saudis and their supporters know that this is a faked story,” he said.
Since Saturday’s missile attack, the Saudi-led coalition has tightened its blockade of rebel-held areas of Yemen, blocking even United Nations-supervised relief supplies despite urgent appeals from the world body. “The best thing to do for Saudis is not try to fish in troubled waters, just to be honest and say that ok, it’s time to end the conflict” in Yemen, the Iranian official said. He added that Tehran would support “any genuine dialogue” between Yemenis.
The Saudi-led Arab military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the Houthis forced him into exile. More than 8,650 people have been killed in Yemen since the start of the intervention.
Repeated attempts to bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict have failed, including a series of U.N.-backed peace talks.