The Latest: Turkey urges Iran, Saudis to ease tensions

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The latest developments after Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with Tehran amid a dispute over Riyadh’s execution of an opposition Shia cleric and attacks on Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran. (All times local.)

11:40 p.m.

Turkey has urged both Saudi Arabia and Iran to ease tensions, saying the Middle East region is “already like a powder keg” and cannot withstand a new crisis.

Briefing reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said both Saudi Arabia and Iran would suffer from the “hostile attitudes” and urged them to put tensions behind them.

Kurtulmus criticized both the attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and Riyadh’s execution of the cleric.

He said: “Enough is enough. (The region) is in need of peace and calm. Everyone must act with caution.”

11:20 p.m.

Iran has expressed “regret” over two attacks on Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions and says it will spare no effort in arresting and prosecuting those responsible.

Iran’s U.N. envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday that the Islamic Republic “will take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.”

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters attacked its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashad. The violence stems from Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric over the weekend, which predominantly Shia Iran has denounced.

Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters at the embassy have been arrested and handed over to judicial authorities and that investigators are seeking other possible perpetrators.

In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, he said Iran supports the Vienna conventions on the protection of diplomats and diplomatic property. Khoshroo asked that the letter be circulated to all 193 U.N. member nations.

10:20 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Saudi Arabia and Iran to support peace efforts in Syria and Yemen and avoid escalating tensions.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Ban delivered this message in phone calls to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday and to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday.

Dujarric said the U.N. chief called for all political and religious leaders in the region “to avoid adding fuel to the fire.”

Saudi Arabia on Sunday severed ties with Iran after protesters attacked its diplomatic missions there. The violence stems from Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric.

Dujarric said a previously planned visit to the two countries by the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has taken on added importance because of the recent developments.

10 p.m.

The White House is urging Saudi Arabia and Iran to not let their diplomatic spat derail talks to end Syria’s conflict.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. is concerned about the situation and wants Saudi Arabia and Iran to show restraint. He’s urging them not to inflame tensions or further sectarian conflict.

Earnest says it’s in the interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia to continue working toward a political solution for Syria. Both countries have been participating in the talks in Vienna.

The White House says President Barack Obama has not spoken with the leaders of either country since Saudi Arabia started scaling back diplomatic ties with Iran. Riyadh is incensed over the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, which was prompted by the Saudi execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric.

8:40 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria is heading to Saudi Arabia and Iran to gauge the impact of the rupture in relations between the two longtime regional rivals on efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says Staffan de Mistura is en route to Riyadh on Monday and will visit Tehran later this week.

Haq says de Mistura “hopes that the adverse consequences of the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not affect the peace process with the Syrians.”

Iran, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the opposition, have participated in three rounds of international talks aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. De Mistura has set a Jan. 25 target date for a fourth round of talks.

A resolution adopted last month by the U.N. Security Council calls on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to start formal negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition on a political transition process “with a target of early January 2016.”

Saudi Arabia on Sunday severed ties with Iran after protesters attacked its diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic. The violence stems from Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric over the weekend.

8: 20 p.m.

Kuwait has condemned the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran and expressed support for the kingdom, which has severed ties with Tehran.

A Kuwaiti Cabinet statement carried by the official KUNA news agency on Monday says the attacks were a “flagrant violation of the Geneva convention,” which requires states to secure diplomatic posts.

The statement did not mention any change in Kuwait’s relations with Iran. Bahrain and Sudan followed Saudi Arabia in severing ties with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates downgraded relations with Tehran.

The latest crisis in relations between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran stems from Riyadh’s execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric and opposition figure, on Saturday, which sparked outrage among Shias across the region.

8 p.m.

Thousands of Iraqis are demonstrating in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra to protest the execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia.

In Baghdad, protesters organized by influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, called for the severing of diplomatic ties with Riyadh. Young men burned American, British and Israeli flags.

Hakim al-Zamili, the chairman of the parliamentary security and defense committee, accused Saudi Arabia of “planting sedition among Muslims.”

Sunday night in Hilla, south of Baghdad, two Sunni mosques were bombed and damaged.

Provincial security official Falah al-Khafaji said the Islamic State group carried out the attack to stoke sectarian tensions. No group immediately claimed responsibility but attacks claimed by IS often target Shia mosques. In the past, Shia militiamen in Iraq have carried out attacks against Sunni mosques.

7:50 p.m.

Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority says all flights to and from Iran have been cancelled.

The authority made the announcement via Twitter on Monday, a day after Riyadh cut diplomatic ties to Iran, escalating a crisis in relations sparked by Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric.

Iran and Shias across the region condemned the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions, sending tensions soaring between the longtime regional rivals.

The aviation authority said it made the decision to cancel the flights based on the severing of diplomatic relations. It urged airlines to work with customers who had pre-booked tickets to travel to and from Iran.

4:50 p.m.

Germany has called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to mend ties after Riyadh cut diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert says Germany appeals “to both countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to use all possibilities to improve their bilateral relations.”

Saudi Arabia cut ties after Iran protested its execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric and crowds attacked its diplomatic posts in the Islamic Republic.

Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are of fundamental importance for solving the crises in Syria and Yemen, and for the stability of the entire region.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Middle East owed the world more cooperation in trying to overcome regional crises.

Martin Schaefer said that “from point of view of Foreign Minister (Frank-Walter) Steinmeier both Saudi and Iran, too, are obliged to contribute to solving the crises.”

4:30 p.m.

Sudan says it is severing its diplomatic relations with Iran. It says the decision would take effect immediately.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry made the announcement in a statement carried by Sudan’s state news agency on Monday afternoon.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both cut diplomatic ties to Iran, while the United Arab Emirates downgraded its ties.

3:40 p.m.

The state-run news agency of the United Arab Emirates says the country is downgrading its diplomatic relations with Iran.

The statement was published on Monday afternoon. The UAE’s Foreign Ministry also said it was recalling its ambassador from Tehran.

The statement said the UAE would be downgrading its diplomacy to only focus on business relationships between the Gulf federation and Iran. UAE says it’s doing this due to “Iran’s continued interference in the Gulf and Arab countries internal affairs.”

The move comes after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both cut diplomatic ties to Iran.

3:10 p.m.

A Bahraini government minister says the tiny island kingdom is severing its diplomatic ties with Iran.

Minister of Media Affairs Isa al-Hamadi made the announcement on Monday.

Bahrain’s decision comes amid heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Bahrain frequently accuses Iran of being behind the long-running, low-level insurgency in the country since its majority Shia population began protests in 2011 against Bahrain’s Sunni rulers.

2:14 p.m.

A Russian state news agency is citing a senior diplomat as saying that Moscow is ready to act as a mediator in the escalating conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The report by the RIA Novosti news agency on Monday quotes the diplomat as saying that Russia has developed good relations with both countries through the so-called Vienna group, which is working on a resolution of the Syria conflict, and that he hoped that could help resolve the Tehran-Riyadh dispute.

The agency did not identify the Russian diplomat and it was unclear from the report if Moscow had made the mediation proposal to either side.

Russian state news agencies frequently cite unnamed officials within the government.

2:15 p.m.

A prominent Iranian lawmaker says Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Iran likely will force the Islamic Republic to stop sending pilgrims to the annual hajj.

Lawmaker Mohammad Ali Esfanani, spokesman of the Judicial and Legal Committee of the Iranian parliament, made the comments on Monday.

The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Esfanani as saying: “When a country has cut diplomatic relations with us, it means it is hostile with us.”

He also says that “it appears that protection (of pilgrims) and security issues will prevent hajj from taking place.”

Saudi Arabia has not officially commented on whether the kingdom’s severing of ties with Iran also meant that pilgrims from Iran can no longer attend the hajj. The pilgrimage is required of every able-bodied Muslim once in a person’s life.

When Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran from 1988 to 1991, Iran stopped its pilgrims from attending the hajj.

11:50 a.m.

An Iranian official has denounced Saudi Arabia’s move to cut diplomatic relations with Iran and accused the Sunni kingdom of stoking tensions region-wide.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari also said Monday that Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr over the weekend was an example of this.

Ansari claims that “Saudi Arabia sees its interests and even its existence in continuing tensions and clashes.” He spoke during a weekly press conference in Tehran.

He says the kingdom “tries to resolve its domestic problems through projecting and exporting them abroad.”

10:50 a.m.

Saudi officials say gunfire directed toward security forces has killed a man in a village in eastern Saudi Arabia where mourning ceremonies are underway for an executed Shia sheikh.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported early Monday that a man was killed in al-Awamiya village and a child was wounded. That’s where the family of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is holding three days of mourning at a local mosque. Authorities offered no details on who they suspected in the shooting.

Al-Nimr was an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy but denied ever calling for violence. His execution on Saturday has sparked outrage among Shias across the region.

The sheikh’s brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, has told The Associated Press that Saudi officials informed his family that the cleric had been buried in an undisclosed cemetery, a development that could lead to further protests.

10:30 a.m.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister says Saudi Arabia’s decision to severe diplomatic relations cannot cover up Riyadh’s “strategic mistake” in killing a prominent Shia cleric.

Hossein Amir Abdollahian also accused Saudi Arabia of promoting terrorism and extremism in the Middle East. His comments were broadcast on Monday on Iranian state television.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran late Sunday, hours after protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. It also followed harsh criticism by Iran’s top leader of the Saudis’ execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Al-Nimr’s execution has opened a new chapter in the ongoing Sunni-Shia power struggle playing out across the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran as primary antagonists.