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Saudi slams Russian remarks over Shiite unrest

Saudi Arabia has hit out at a Russian official for his remarks on unrest in the kingdom’s east, saying his comments were a “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, a report said.

It accused Konstantin Dolgov, Russian foreign ministry’s commissioner for human rights, of diverting attention from the “massacres” that were being committed by Moscow’s ally, Damascus, in Syria.

Saudi Arabia “noted with strong disapproval” remarks by Dolgov, the kingdom’s foreign ministry said in a late Saturday statement carried by the official news agency SPA.

The kingdom described Dolgov’s comments as a “blatant interference in its internal affairs,” the ministry said.

Dolgov, in a statement published last week on the Russian foreign ministry’s website, had expressed “great concerns” over clashes between Saudi police and Shiite protesters in the kingdom’s Qatif district that left two demonstrators dead.

He warned that events in the kingdom will negatively influence “the stability and consent of civil society in Saudi Arabia.”

Dolgov called upon the kingdom to “undertake all necessary measures to settle the situation in its eastern regions, to avoid conflict, including confrontation on interconfessional basis.”

He urged Saudi authorities “to ensure… the right for freedom of expression of opinion, peaceful demonstrations and freedom of associations.”

Riyadh responded by saying it has always “refrained from interfering in Russia’s affairs and policies towards unrest within its borders that has killed many.”

“The kingdom hopes that such strange remarks do not aim at diverting attention away from the brutal and savage massacres the Syrian regime is committing against its people with support from well-known parties that set obstacles in the face of any effort to end bloodshed in Syria.”

Tensions have been running high between both countries which had taken opposite stances towards the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Saudi Arabia has openly called for arming Syrian rebels and for international action against Damascus, while Russia has not supported any UN Security Council action against him.