Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has accused Saudi Arabia of stoking tensions with his country to distract from its own problems.
In an interview with Iranian television on Tuesday, the Iranian leader said his country’s relations had improved with neighbouring states, such as Turkey and Pakistan, but that Saudi Arabia was an exception.
“Saudi Arabia is looking for tension with Iran to cover up defeats in the region and internal problems,” Rouhani said, blaming Riyadh for the poor state of relations between the two regional powers.
“Today, we have better relations with Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Qatar. We may have problems with a couple of countries such as Saudi Arabia, which they have fanned.
“Saudi Arabia is seeking today to solve two fundamental problems…the first reason is that Saudi Arabia failed in Qatar and failed in Iraq and in Syria and finally failed in Lebanon as well.
“The second reason is the situation inside Saudi Arabia, the situation is tense and there are internal disputes, so they portray Iran as an enemy to cover up their failure and their internal problems.”
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming Houthi rebels in Yemen and blamed it for a missile attack north of its capital earlier in November.
Iran rejects the accusation of involvement in the attack.
Riyadh leads a coalition of Arab states that intervened in Yemen in 2015 but have so far failed to defeat the Houthis, who continue to hold the country’s capital Sanaa.
The Saudis were also opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, which saw Iran reduce its nuclear enrichment capability in return for limited sanctions relief from the EU and the US.
Rouhani said: “The enemies of the (nuclear deal) in the region were Israel and Saudi Arabia who failed.”
Saudi Arabia broke off relations with Iran after its diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad were stormed by protesters armed with petrol bombs in protest at Riyadh’s execution of Shia Muslim leader, Nimr al-Nimr.
The Iranian president insists his country will seek to resolve problems in the region through “dialogue instead of confrontation”, but said both “diplomacy and military power” were necessary for realising its foreign policy goals.