Thailand keeping a close eye on tension in the Middle East

national January 06, 2016 07:03

By Jeerapong Prasertpolkrung,

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Thailand will closely monitor tensions in the Middle East, which have turned into a full-blown issue as Saudi Arabia and its allies either cut or reduced ties with Iran in response to the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Foreign Minister Don Pramu

The mission was stormed after Riyadh executed a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric on Saturday.

Don was speaking after attending a weekly Cabinet meeting at which, he said, the government was informed about the crisis.

“The Cabinet agreed that we should wait and see what happens for a while before making a decision on the next step. We hope the situation will get better,” he said.

The Thai embassies in Iran and Saudi Arabia will keep the government updated on the situation, Don said, adding that information available online would also help them monitor the situation. The embassies are checking on the number of Thais in the two countries, though the situation has not reached the point of evacuation.

“The situation is not having an impact on Thais living there yet,” the minister said.

Meanwhile Chutima Bunyapra-phasara, permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry, said the ministry would hold a meeting on January 20 to evaluate the impact the conflict was having on Thailand’s trade.

“At this stage, Thai shipments to Middle East countries should not be affected by the conflict, as most of them have to pass a third country. However, the ministry will call for Thai trade officers overseas, particularly those in the Mideast, to estimate the impact and come up with export-driving measures,” she said.

She added that Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak’s official visit to Iran scheduled for this month might have to be postponed.

“We will monitor the situation before deciding about Somkid’s visit. If it is delayed, the government may need to suspend its plan to sell rice to Iran,” she said, adding that Iran was still one of the target markets for Thai rice shipments in the future.

Kuwait recalls envoy

She explained that Iran used to import tens of thousands of tonnes from Thailand every year.

Meanwhile Kuwait became the latest Arab state to recall its ambassador from Iran to protest against attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions.

It did not, however, expel Tehran’s ambassador or downgrade the level of diplomatic relations with Iran.

The move comes after Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed ties with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates recalled its ambassador and downgraded ties with Iran. Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with Oman and Qatar.

The attacks “represent a flagrant breach of international agreements and norms and a grave violation of Iran’s international commitments for the security of diplomatic missions and the safety of diplomats”, the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) cited the country’s Foreign Ministry as saying.

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