Manama: Al Azhar, the highest religious authority in Egypt, has expressed its “full rejection” and “utter dismay” over Iran’s interference in the domestic affairs of Bahrain and other Arab countries.

On Eid day, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in his sermon devoted mainly to the nuclear agreement signed between his country and world powers that Tehran would continue to support some countries.

“Whether this drafted [nuclear agreement] text is approved through legal process in the country or not, the Iranian nation will not stop supporting the oppressed nation of Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain as well as the nations and governments of Syria, Iraq and the honest combatants in Lebanon and Palestine,” he said.

The claims caused furore and they were dismissed as blatant interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.

“The statements of the Iranian Guide are unacceptable and are a blatant aggression on the sovereignty and independence of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” Al Azhar said in a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA). “It completely clashes with the principles of good neighbourliness recommended and stressed by our noble religion.”

Al Azhar said that Iran needed to put an end to such statements that deepen hatred between countries and peoples, create feelings of tension and instability in the region and fuel sectarian standoffs among people from the same religion and the same nation.

Such situations serve the enemies of the Islamic nation, Al Azhar warned as it reiterated its solidarity with the nations of the Gulf regarding their security and stability, the statement said.

On July 29, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council — the alliance of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — said he was baffled by the contradictions in the statements issued by Iranian officials on the Arab-Iranian relations.

“Such contradictions do not help with building confidence measures to boost cooperation based on good neighbourliness and the non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, and based on the noble precepts of our Islamic religion.,” Abdul Lateef Al Zayani said.

The GCC head referred to the statements issued by the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif in which he talked about his country’s aspiration to start a new chapter in its relations with the Arab countries, saying they contrasted with the sermon by Khamenei in which he indicated interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, naming Yemen and Bahrain.

“Khamenei’s statement is totally rejected and violates the international principles and norms that stress respect for the sovereignty of other countries and building positive relations,” Al Zayani said. “The GCC will remain keen on preserving its interests and will main its stances calling for regional security and stability,” he said.

In Bahrain, the foreign ministry earlier had summoned the top Iranian diplomat currently in the country to protest against Khamenei’s statements.

“The Foreign Ministry summoned evening the Iranian Embassy acting charge d’affaires and handed him an official protest memorandum following the recent statements made by Ali Khamenei against the Kingdom of Bahrain,” the ministry said in a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Abdullah Abdul Lateef Abdullah said that “the Iranian statement represented a flagrant and unacceptable interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, a blatant encroachment on its sovereignty and independence and a violation of the UN and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) principles”.

The official stressed the necessity for Iran “to put an end immediately to such statements and concentrate, and instead to improve living conditions of the friendly Iranian people”.

The undersecretary “underlined the need to commit to the principles of good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to respect its sovereignty and independence and to abide fully by the international norms that govern relations between sovereign countries”.

Bahrain will “take all measures that protect its interests, maintain its security and stability and guarantee the safety of its people”.