Saudi FM refused press briefing with Iran counterpart over Soleimani picture – Middle East Monitor

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister reportedly walked out of a briefing with his Iranian counterpart over the weekend due to the presence of a picture of assassinated Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, on the wall.

According to the opposition news outlet, Iran International, Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and his delegation protested against the picture of Soleimani on the wall of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s hall in the capital, Tehran, on Saturday, where both sides had gathered for a joint press conference.

Bin Farhan then did not appear at the Saudi podium upon realisation that the picture was to be directly behind him. The Iranians moved the briefing to another room at the request of the Saudis.

The incident was confirmed by some Iranian media outlets, and the next day, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian – who did not directly criticise his Saudi counterpart’s protest – stated on Twitter that Soleimani was a symbol of “unity and brotherhood among the Islamic world”.

Calling the slain General “the great hero in the fight against Zionism and terrorism [who] did not sleep for 30 years”, the official stressed that Soleimani and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) “plan has enemies”.

Until he was assassinated by an American airstrike in January 2020, Soleimani served as the chief architect of Iran’s vast network of proxy Shia militias throughout the region, building and reinforcing their presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Tehran and the IRGC also backed and armed the Houthi rebels in Yemen who have fought against the Saudi military’s intervention and the internationally-recognised Yemeni government over almost a decade, resulting in the likes of Soleimani ending up on Riyadh’s and other Gulf state’s terror lists.

In March this year, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore full diplomatic ties in a landmark China-brokered deal, making the issue of Tehran’s network of proxy militias and their enmity to the Gulf states a largely irrelevant issue, at least overtly.

Bin Farhan and his entourage’s protest against Soleimani’s picture – which is speculated to have been strategically placed for propaganda and media purposes – is evidence that not all is forgotten in the long-standing rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran.

READ: Only ‘enemies of Muslims’ led by Israel oppose Iran-Saudi rapprochement

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