London – Iran stressed on Monday that it will keep its country’s ambassador in Kuwait, despite a diplomatic row that erupted last week in wake of a court ruling against the Tehran-backed al-Abdali terrorist cell.
“The ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to be present in Kuwait and the embassy will be active at the ambassadorial level, and there is no problem in this regard,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
The spokesman also denied that Kuwait had “expelled” any of Iran’s diplomats, saying that officials from the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry had informed the Iranian ambassador on Thursday of a request to lower the number of the diplomatic staff.
“Kuwait gave the staff 45 days to leave the country,” said Qasemi, while adding that his country has the freedom to chose the personnel that would return to the embassy.
Kuwait news agency (KUNA) reported on Thursday that Kuwait had ordered the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats, worsening the dispute between the two countries.
KUNA said that the Foreign Ministry had summoned Iranian Ambassador Ali-Reza Enayati and informed him of the decision to shut cultural, military and trade missions and suspend the work of joint committees between the two countries. Fifteen Iranian diplomats were also expelled in wake of the escape of suspects involved in the al-Abdali cell.
Iran responded to the expulsions by filing a complaint with the Kuwaiti charge d’affaires, describing the accusations against it in the al-Abdali case as “baseless.”
Qasemi claimed on Monday that his country stresses “the need for positive ties with all Gulf countries, especially Kuwait.”
At the same time however, he said that Kuwait “did not offer any good step and it should be blamed for that. We can still hold dialogue and contacts because our ambassador will remain in the country,” he said.
Asked if Iran will take a similar step and lower the number of Kuwaiti diplomats, he responded that his country “reserves the right to retaliate in kind.”
“It will take such a measure at the right time if necessary,” Qasemi stated.
Saudi Arabia, which severed ties with Tehran last year over attacks by Iranian demonstrators on its missions in the Islamic Republic, welcomed Kuwait’s move.
Last year, Kuwait convicted 23 men — one Iranian and the rest Kuwaiti — of spying for Iran and Lebanese group “Hezbollah”. That trial followed the discovery of guns and explosives in a raid on the Abdali cell in 2015.
Iran has denied any involvement in the case.