RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman urged arch-rival Iran on Wednesday to abandon an expansionist ideology that has “harmed” its own people, following violent street protests in the Islamic Republic.
A wave of demonstrations erupted in the sanctions-hit country on Friday after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised by as much as 200 percent with immediate effect. Well over 100 have been killed in a regime crackdown against the protesters, according to rights groups.
“We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realizes there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practices, without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people,” the king told the consultative Shura Council.
The region’s leading Shiite and Sunni powers have no diplomatic ties and are at odds over a range of issues, including the wars in Syria and Yemen.
“The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies,” King Salman said, as quoted by Riyadh’s foreign ministry, reiterating that his country does not seek war but is “ready to defend its people.”
Saudi leaders regularly accuse Iran of stirring conflicts by supporting Shiite movements in the region. Iran has funded, trained and backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Tehran in turn says Riyadh supports radical Sunni Islamist groups in the region.
Tensions soared between Riyadh and Tehran after a recent string of assaults on oil tankers and installations in the Gulf blamed on Iran.
In the latest attack on September 14, drone strikes targeted two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily knocking out half of the kingdom’s oil production.
The attacks were claimed by the Houthis, but the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others have said Iran was responsible, and that the strikes were carried out with advanced missiles and drones launched from Iranian territory.