UAE welcomes Iran-Saudi deal as ‘important step for regional stability, prosperity’

Emirati foreign minister hails China-brokered agreement between Tehran and Riyadh; PA, Jordan also issue praise

In this file photo from June 9, 2019, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan listens during a news conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)
In this file photo from June 9, 2019, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan listens during a news conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

The United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday welcomed the deal reached by Saudi Arabia and Iran to re-establish diplomatic relations.

“The restoration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran is an important step for the region towards stability and prosperity,” tweeted Al Nahyan.

Last year, Iran said it wanted to boost relations with the UAE, welcoming an Emirati ambassador back to Tehran after a six-year absence.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed Friday to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions. The major diplomatic breakthrough was negotiated with China.

The deal was widely seen as a blow to Israel and the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been set to visit the UAE in January, but the trip was canceled, apparently amid tensions after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the Temple Mount.

A senior Middle Eastern diplomat told The Times of Israel last month that plans by the US and the UAE to host Netanyahu were placed on the back burner, with the two sources explaining that the respective governments are frustrated with the new government’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and are waiting to see what unfolds on the ground during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins later this month. The Ramadan period has historically added another layer of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Axios reported that the UAE decision to rescind Netanyahu’s January invitation was also due to concern that the Israeli premier would use the visit to make public statements against Iran on Emirati soil.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, at right, shakes hands with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, at left, as Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat, looks on, at center, for a photo during a closed meeting held in Beijing, March 11, 2023. (Luo Xiaoguang/Xinhua via AP)

The Prime Minister’s Office said the UAE visit was scrapped due to scheduling issues.

Also praising the Iran-Saudi Arabia agreement Friday was the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement that it would “lead to stability, security and cooperation among the countries of the region and help address outstanding issues and crises in our region.”

“It removes the specter of fighting and wars and pulls the rug out from the hands of some countries that were looking for military solutions to their crises,” Ramallah said, apparently taking a shot at Israel, which has long demanded the demonstration of a credible military threat in order to deter Iran.

“In this context, the Ministry congratulates the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this diplomatic achievement and we congratulate it on this decision, which reflects the depth of political vision and historical responsibility toward its people and the peoples of the region and the world.”

Jordan also welcomed the deal with its foreign ministry expressing “hope that this step will contribute to bolstering of peace and stability in region while preserving states’ sovereignty and ensuring non-interference in their internal affairs.”

A senior Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu to Italy on Friday tried to blame the Tehran-Riyadh agreement on the previous Israeli government and the Biden administration’s combined weakness.

However, media reports indicated that negotiations between began Riyadh and Tehran began in April of that year, when Netanyahu was still prime minister.

Meanwhile Friday, Iran National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani told Iran’s Nour News that the agreement his government inked with Saudi Arabia “will definitely be a serious obstacle to the presence and interference of extra-regional countries and the Zionist regime in the region.”

The United Nations welcomed the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement and thanked China for its role. “Good neighborly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said.

The US also welcomed “any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

However, the State Department offered a word of caution about an agreement in which America seems to have played no part: “Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Iranian regime will honor their side of the deal.”

Tensions have long been high between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The kingdom broke ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

Iranian protesters hold placards and shout slogans during a demonstration in Tehran on January 8, 2016, against the execution of prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities. (AFP)

That came as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then a deputy, began his rise to power. The son of King Salman, Prince Mohammed previously compared Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and threatened to strike Iran.

Since then, the US unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks after that, including one targeting the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production.

Though Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed the attack, Western nations and experts blamed Tehran. Iran denied it and also denied carrying out other assaults later attributed to the Islamic Republic.

Religion also plays a key role in their relations. Saudi Arabia, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day, has portrayed itself as the world’s leading Sunni nation. Iran’s theocracy, meanwhile, views itself as the protector of Islam’s Shiite minority.

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