DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran on Monday denied reports that Kuwait had expelled its ambassador, saying it would maintain a dialogue with the Gulf Arab state after a diplomatic row over Tehran’s alleged links to a “spy and terror” cell.
Iranian and Kuwaiti media reported on Thursday that Kuwait had ordered the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats, worsening an unusual public dispute between the two countries.
“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.
“(Kuwait’s) action is reprehensible but we can continue our talks and contacts,” Qasemi said, quoted by IRNA.
Kuwait also told Iran’s cultural and military missions to shut down, following a court case that increased tensions between the Gulf Arab state and Tehran.
Iran responded to the expulsions by filing a complaint with the Kuwaiti charge d’affaires.
The expulsions were a rare move for Kuwait, which avoids conflict and has worked at keeping good relations with nearby countries and whose ruling emir is a regional diplomatic broker.
Saudi Arabia, which severed ties with Tehran last year over attacks by Iranian demonstrators on its missions in the Islamic Republic, welcomed the move.
Last year, Kuwait convicted 23 men — one Iranian and the rest Kuwaiti — of spying for Iran and Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah. That trial followed the discovery of guns and explosives in a raid on the so-called “Abdali cell” in 2015.
Iran has denied any involvement in the case.
Apart from the diplomatic row with Iran, Kuwait has also been trying to mediate in the crisis involving Qatar. Some other Gulf states have imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and having links to Tehran.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom Editing by Jeremy Gaunt