Russian and Chinese interests ‘better served’ if Iran arms embargo is extended, says Saudi official

Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador warns of Iranian strategy to exploit world power rivalries over weapons ban

Remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, are displayed during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed  REFILE - ADDING INFORMATION

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Al Mouallimi, on Wednesday stressed the urgent need to extend the current weapons embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

Mr Al Mouallimi said renewing the embargo “is the right thing and the minimum response from the Security Council”.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued the ninth report on the implementation of Resolution 2231, detailing use of weapons of "Iranian origin" in several attacks against Saudi Arabia last September.

The comments came as Khalid bin Salman, deputy defence minister, said that the findings illustrate the threat Tehran poses to the Middle East.

“The UN report confirming the Iranian regime's involvement in sabotage attacks on the Kingdom illustrates the regime’s dark vision for the region, while countries in our region work to promote positive relations, and provide stability and security,” he tweeted.

“The Kingdom's decision to request an independent UN investigation confirmed what we already knew about the Iranian regime. The international community must do its part in maintaining the arms embargo in order to end the crimes and hostility of this regime.”

Mr Al Mouallimi said the report proved Iran’s culpability.

“It proves beyond any shadow of a doubt Iran’s participation in these attacks,” he said.

He warned that lifting the embargo will allow Iran to obtain and export advanced weapons legally.

Asked by The National about Russia's and China's objections to extending the embargo, Mr Al Mouallimi said: "They have their views, we respect their views, but their interests would be better served and promoted with the embargo extended."

He said Iran’s strategy aimed to exploit differences and rivalries between world powers on the issue.

If the embargo were not renewed and the US triggered snapback sanctions, it could lead to the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Known as the JCPOA, it was intended to limit Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and prevent it from building an atomic bomb.

But Mr Al Mouallimi said a new approach was needed.

“The shortfalls of the JCPOA outweigh the benefits," he said. "A fresh start is needed with the involvement of Arab countries.”

Speaking from Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned again on Wednesday that allowing the embargo to expire would hurt regional stability.

“If Iran is allowed to buy weapons from the likes of China and Russia, more civilians in the Middle East will die at the hands of the regime and its proxies," Mr Pompeo said.

"Tehran will become an arms dealer for the Maduros and Assads of the world."

He was referring to the regimes of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad.

But the US efforts are being met with opposition from Russia and China, who could veto any resolution to extend the embargo.

China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said: “Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger a snapback at the Security Council.”

The Russian ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, criticised the US strategy on Iran, calling it “maximum suffocation policy”.

“There are neither legal nor other grounds to raise the issue of arms embargo,” Mr Nebenzia said.

"Approval-based procedures for transfer of armaments to and from Iran have been designed as temporary measure, and their extension after 18 October hasn't been envisaged or discussed."