January 4, 2016 / 8:06 AM / 4 years ago

Syrian rebel group backs Saudi move to cut ties with Iran

Rebel fighters of Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) carry their weapons as they walk along a military post used by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir Salman frontline, near the highway of Damascus international airport after claiming to have made advances in the area May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Amer Almohibany/files

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian insurgent group Jaysh al Islam on Monday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s rupture of ties with Iran, saying Tehran’s backing of Shi’ite militias was destabilizing the Middle East and stoking sectarian tensions in Syria.

Jaysh al-Islam is a Sunni Muslim group that is part of a new, Saudi-backed opposition body set up with the aim of bringing about peace talks between rebels and the Iranian-backed Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad.

The group, whose leader was killed in a Dec. 26 air strike, said Iran was “threatening the security of the region by exporting criminal militias that spread destruction and death and filled with sectarian vengeance”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief warned Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday that renewed tension between Shi’ite Iran and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy could wreck efforts to find a political solution for the crisis in Syria.

Saudi Arabia condemned the killing of Jaysh al Islam’s leader Zahran Allosuh in an aerial raid in his stronghold east of Damascus, saying his death did not serve the peace process in the war-torn country.

Iranian-backed militias and Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah are fighting alongside the Syrian army against mainly Sunni insurgents backed by Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Turkey in a conflict that has cost over 250,000 lives.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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