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UAE mulls returning ambassador to Tehran, says ‘not part of any axis against Iran’

Senior Emirati official cites need for ‘de-escalation’; announcement comes day after Biden signs security pact in Israel reinforcing common front against Tehran

UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash speaks to journalists in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, June 18, 2018. (AP/Jon Gambrell)
UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash speaks to journalists in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, June 18, 2018. (AP/Jon Gambrell)

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates is considering sending an ambassador to Iran, a senior official said Friday, six years after a downgrade in ties.

UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash also called for regional economic cooperation as a means of easing political tensions.

“We are now indeed considering sending an ambassador to Iran,” Gargash said during a video call with journalists. “The next decade cannot be like the last decade. It’s a decade where ‘de-escalation’ should be the key word.”

With Middle East political alignments shifting, the UAE’s talk of strengthening Iran ties comes alongside Iraqi efforts to mediate between the Emirates’ neighbor Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Riyadh and Tehran have had no diplomatic ties for six years, since Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran after the kingdom executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Riyadh responded by cutting relations with Tehran, while the UAE reduced its ties to the Islamic Republic, without severing relations.

An Iranian woman holds up a poster showing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric who was executed by Saudi Arabia, in Tehran, Iran, during a protest on January 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran and the Emirates have been on opposite sides of the war in Yemen, where the UAE supports and trains forces as part of a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

A cross-border drone attack by the Yemeni rebels killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi in January.

Another source of rivalry has been the UAE’s claim to the Iran-controlled Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands in the Gulf.

“The UAE is not part of any axis against Iran,” Gargash said, urging “economic cooperation in various areas in order to create a greater political de-escalation.”

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.

Israel and the United States on Thursday signed a new security pact reinforcing their common front against Iran, during a visit to Jerusalem by US President Joe Biden.

US President Joe Biden (L) and Prime Minister Yair Lapid, sign a security pledge in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

Biden vowed to use “all” American power to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, something Tehran denies seeking.

In 2020 the Emirates established diplomatic relations with Israel, a move which Tehran condemned.

Still, in July last year UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan met Iranian charge d’affaires Sayed Mohammad Hosseini to look at ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation.

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