Saudi Arabia has cut trade and air links with Iran amid the escalating row between the two Middle East heavyweights. Riyadh's civil aviation authorities said they have suspended all flights to and from Iran with immediate effect.
Riyadh's decision follows the diplomatic fallout with Tehran over the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The Sunni kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) said: "The airlines will take necessary procedures so as not to affect the passengers who have already reserved their tickets for travel."
Though all commercial relations with Tehran will also be frozen as part of the ongoing spat, Riyadh said Iranians will be allowed to make their annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters that Iran should behave like a "normal country" in order to ease the tensions.
He said: "There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia. Our moves are all reactive. It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria."
Saudi Arabia's action has so far had a ripple effect in the region with Sunni nations following suit. Rallying behind the oil powerhouse, Bahrain and Sudan have both severed diplomatic ties with Iran, while the UAE has scaled back its relations. Other nations like Turkey and the US have urged both Tehran and Riyadh to show restraint while handling the situation.
Meanwhile, Iran has hinted that the latest diplomatic confrontation will have a direct impact on Iranians' annual Hajj pilgrimage, which every Muslim is expected to perform at least once in his lifetime if they are physically able to do so and can afford it.
Top lawmaker Mohammed Ali Esfanani, who is also a spokesperson for the Judicial and Legal Committee of the Iranian parliament, said: "Iran should have taken the first step to cut ties with Saudi Arabia after the Mina tragedy. After committing all these crimes, Saudi Arabia should not have been allowed to make a decision in this regard because the Saudis martyred many innocent pilgrims and now they have shamelessly executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr."