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UAE, Iranian top envoys discuss boosting ties to stabilize region

Foreign ministers talk by telephone as Emiratis move towards reconciliation with Islamic Republic, consider returning an ambassador to Tehran

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan in Paris, on July 18, 2022. (BENOIT TESSIER / AFP)
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan in Paris, on July 18, 2022. (BENOIT TESSIER / AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Emirati and Iranian foreign ministers have held a telephone conversation and discussed boosting ties, UAE state media reported Wednesday, as the Gulf Arab country considers sending an ambassador back to Tehran.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian discussed ways of “boosting bilateral relations and areas of cooperation for the benefit of both countries,” the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Abdullah “highlighted the UAE’s keenness… to enhance the security and stability of the region,” WAM added.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Amir-Abdollahian “welcomed the enhancement of the level of ties between the two countries” as “an important step in the process of developing bilateral relations,” in a statement late Tuesday.

It said the Iranian minister also spoke separately with his Omani and Kuwaiti counterparts on Tuesday night.

The United Arab Emirates scaled back its ties with the Islamic Republic in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following Riyadh’s execution of Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Earlier this month, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said his country was considering sending an ambassador back to Iran and called for regional economic cooperation to help ease political tensions.

“The next decade cannot be like the last decade. It’s a decade where ‘de-escalation’ should be the key word,” he had said.

His comments came after Israel and the United States signed a new security pact reinforcing their common front against Iran, during a visit to the Jewish state by US President Joe Biden.

The UAE’s talk of strengthening Iran ties comes alongside Iraqi efforts to mediate between Emirati ally Riyadh and Tehran.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since the 2016 attacks on the kingdom’s diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic, while Kuwait also downgraded relations with Tehran.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian looks on during a press conference in Tehran, on July 20, 2022. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

An Iranian diplomat told a Kuwaiti newspaper earlier this week that a Kuwaiti ambassador would arrive in Tehran “in the next few days,” but authorities in the Gulf emirate have yet to announce such a move.

The oil-rich UAE has previously said that Arab Gulf states should take part in “collective diplomacy” to reach an agreement with Iran, whose talks with Western powers over a faltering 2015 nuclear agreement have been stalled since March.

In 2020, the UAE established diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords facilitated by US president Donald Trump, a move Tehran condemned.

Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday described Israel’s presence in the region as a cause of “instability and insecurity,” Iran’s foreign ministry said.

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