Jan 29, 2016, 8:41 PM
News Code: 81940558
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Rouhani urges Saudis to take initiative to defuse tension with Iran

Tehran, Jan 29, IRNA -- President Hassan Rouhani said restoring diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia was a priority, but that it was up to Riyadh to take the initiative, FRANCE 24 reported.

Diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been severed since angry protesters rallied before the Saudi embassy in Tehran following the January 2 execution of high-ranking Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr who opposed the Saudi regime's violations of human rights.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 in an interview during his historic visit to Paris, Rouhani condemned the attack on the Saudi embassy.
'We condemned this action. Our responsibility was to find the culprits of the attack. We have found them, we arrested them. They are in prison,' said Rouhani.
Saudi Arabia’s moves to cut diplomatic ties “were not proportionate to the incidents”, Rouhani said, adding that the Persian Gulf monarchy was “muddling the game”.
“What is certain is that the country that broke off our relations must be the one to try to restore them,” he added.
Escalating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have cast a shadow on recent attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.
When asked if he thought Saudi Arabia helped fund terrorism, Rouhani refused to be drawn into a war of words. The Saudis are “fellow Muslims”, he said.
Rouhani also expressed hope that Iran’s diplomatic ties with the United States, severed since the 1979 hostage crisis, would someday be restored.
“When you look at Iran and the United States, there are quite a few--difficult questions that have been present for the past 30 years. It will be difficult to resolve all of them in a short time,” said Rouhani.
“The United States was at the same negotiating table as Iran [during the nuclear talks in Vienna], which was something unimaginable only a few years ago,” Rouhani added.
Rouhani’s interview came at the end of a historic visit to France following the start of a gradual lifting of nuclear sanctions in January. The visit was dominated by bilateral trade deals between major French and Iranian companies. These included a memorandum of understanding between Iran Air and Airbus for the purchase of 118 Airbus aircraft worth around €23 billion.
Rohani arrived in Paris on Wednesday for the first visit to the French capital by an Iranian leader in 10 years. He met Thursday with top French political and business leaders, clinching deals including the sale of Airbus planes and a car factory revamp that reignited a decades-old relationship between Tehran and French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen.
Political relations between Tehran and Paris, tense in recent years over Iran’s nuclear program, have been further strained by the Syrian conflict, accroding to FRANCE 24.
During his visit to France, Rouhani was keen to play down these differences by emphasizing the common fight against the Islamic State (Daesh) terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
'The priority is the return to peace, the return of refugees to their homes,' said Rouhani.
'Terrorists behead innocents…We must fight, everyone should fight (the IS group). In order to be effective in the fight against the IS group, Rouhani stressed the importance of Assad’s government. 'In the short term, there is no alternative but to support the Syrian army. Without the strength of the [Assad] regime, the army cannot effectively fight [the jihadists],” he added.
UN-backed Syria peace talks are expected to start Friday in Geneva to try to end a conflict that has left nearly 260,000 dead. But Rouhani was not optimistic about the talks.
“The Syrian issue is too complicated. It would be too optimistic to believe that we could reach an agreement within weeks.'