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UAE deputy PM, Iran envoy meet, discuss ‘enhancing bilateral cooperation’

Sit-down in Abu Dhabi comes as close Emirati ally Saudi Arabia is holding talks with the Islamic Republic, in possible sign of warming ties

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE deputy prime minister, right, meets with Iranian charge d'affaires Sayed Mohammad Hosseini in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE deputy prime minister, right, meets with Iranian charge d'affaires Sayed Mohammad Hosseini in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — UAE and Iran officials met in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and discussed enhancing ties, in a possible sign of improving relations between Gulf countries and Tehran.

The United Arab Emirates’ deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met Iranian charge d’affaires Sayed Mohammad Hosseini to address “ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation to serve mutual interests of the two friendly countries,” the official WAM news agency reported.

“Issues of common interest were also discussed.”

The charge d’affaires is the highest-ranking Iranian diplomat in the UAE, and Sheikh Mansour is the brother of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s de facto ruler. He is also minister of presidential affairs.

Abu Dhabi downgraded its relations with Tehran in January 2016 amid fierce rivalry between close Emirati ally Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic.

Additionally, the UAE claims the Iran-controlled Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands located in the Gulf near the entrance to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of world oil output passes.

However, in August last year the Iranian and Emirati foreign ministers discussed the region’s coronavirus outbreaks and other issues in rare talks held by videoconference.

The UAE has also said previously that Arab states in the Gulf should take part in “collective diplomacy” to reach an agreement with Iran amid increased tensions between Washington and Tehran over its nuclear program.

The UAE and Iran maintain diplomatic relations but have traditionally stood on opposite sides of regional issues. These include normalizing relations with Israel, with which the UAE formalized ties last year in a move condemned by Tehran.

Wednesday’s meeting between the two officials also comes amid talks — hosted by Baghdad — between Riyadh and Tehran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center right, accompanies Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on his arrival at Riyadh International Airport, Saudi Arabia, March 31, 2021. Kadhimi visited Saudi Arabia shortly before a first round of direct talks held in April in Baghdad between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies rose in 2019 after a series of mysterious attacks on tankers in sensitive Gulf waters, with Washington blaming them on Iran. Tehran denied the charges.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s two leading powers, back opposing sides in several conflicts, including in Syria and Yemen.

Iran’s foreign ministry said in May that the Islamic Republic is continuing talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia in a “good atmosphere,” in the hope of reaching a “common understanding.”

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