Yemenis walk over the rubble of a building destroyed by an airstrike allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a, Yemen, 06 January 2016. Picture: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Yemenis walk over the rubble of a building destroyed by an airstrike allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a, Yemen, 06 January 2016. Picture: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

IRAN accused Saudi Arabia warplanes yesterday of bombing its embassy in Yemen in an escalation of diplomatic tensions that have reverberated across the Middle East.

Shiite-dominated Iran also announced a ban on imports of products from its Sunni-ruled rival, following a dramatic chill in relations that has triggered international alarm.

It comes days after Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Iran in response to an arson attack on its own embassy in Tehran by protesters infuriated by Riyadh’s execution of a Shiite cleric.

Tehran said embassy staff had been wounded in the raid on the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, which has been targeted by months of air strikes by a Saudi-led Arab coalition. "This deliberate action by Saudi Arabia is a violation of all international conventions that protect diplomatic missions," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said.

Iran also announced that a ban on Iranians travelling to the Saudi holy city of Mecca for the umrah pilgrimage would remain in place.

Longstanding frictions between the Middle East’s foremost Sunni and Shiite Muslim powers exploded into a full-blown diplomatic crisis at the weekend, when Riyadh executed Shiite cleric and activist Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others. The executions unleashed a wave of anger across the Shiite world, including in Iran, where protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad.

Iran denounced the attacks on the Saudi missions, but the repercussions quickly rippled across the region, with Saudi allies Bahrain, Sudan and Djibouti also cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran. The United Arab Emirates downgraded relations with Iran, while Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors.

The Yemen conflict, which pits the pro-Iranian Huthi Shiite rebels against pro-government forces backed by Riyadh and other Gulf Arab states, is one of the main sources of dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

They also support opposing sides in Syria, where Tehran has provided military assistance to President Bashar al-Assad against rebel groups, some backed by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday over the storming of its embassy in Tehran. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Monday the kingdom was halting air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic.

Savola, the kingdom’s largest food products company, which earns 13% of total revenue from Iran, said on Tuesday it planned to maintain its investments there despite the standoff. But it and the few other Saudi companies doing business in Iran faced increasing public pressure during the course of the week, as consumer and business groups called for boycotts of Iranian products. AFP, Reuters