World Insights: Iran, Gulf Arab states healing rift to reduce tensions

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by Xinhua writer Gao Wencheng

TEHRAN, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced that its ambassador to Tehran would resume duties within days, the latest move by Gulf Arab states to mend their relations with Iran.

The rapprochement came as Kuwait also reinstated its ambassador last week and Saudi Arabia has held rounds of talks with Iran, six years after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran and its Sunni allies followed Riyadh's lead.

More countries in the Middle East have realized that Washington's policy of divide and rule will only result in tensions, which are not in the interests of the region, and the countries have pursued more communication and cooperation to resolve issues by themselves, analysts said.


Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi, UAE ambassador to Tehran, will resume his duties "to contribute to further advancing bilateral relations in cooperation with officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve the common interests of the two countries and the wider region," the Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Sunday in a statement.

Abu Dhabi recalled its ambassador from Tehran in 2016 in support of Saudi Arabia, which cut diplomatic ties with Iran in early 2016 in protest against the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic mission in Iran after the Saudi execution of a Shiite cleric.

The diplomatic spat has once heightened tensions across the Middle East. Yet, amid changing geopolitics in the region, UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Tehran in December, and his trip marked the first by a senior UAE official to Iran since 2016.

During a meeting with Sheikh Tahnoon, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that strengthening relations with regional countries is among the top priorities of his administration's foreign policy, and that his country welcomes the development of relations with the UAE.

Witnessing the devastation wrought by regional conflicts in Yemen, Libya and others over the past decade, the UAE has sought to avoid regional conflicts that would be costly for its industries such as trade and tourism, analysts said.

Meanwhile, economic ties between Tehran and Abu Dhabi have remained up and running despite ups and downs in diplomatic relations, Iran's English-language daily Tehran Times said, adding that continued economic cooperation seems to have ultimately created a common ground for the two countries to de-escalate tensions.


The Iran-Saudi Arabia ties, seen as essential to the developments in the Gulf, have shown signs of detente as direct talks between the two sides were resumed in April 2021. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Monday that the negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties are making progress.

Speaking at a regular press conference, Kanaani said, "It is natural that there are differences of opinion and complex issues, but so far the process of negotiations has been positive, and we have taken very good steps forward."

The situation in Yemen is among the main topics of the Tehran-Riyadh talks. A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015 to support an internationally-recognized Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

But the protracted war has led to increasing Saudi military spending on Yemen's battlefield. One of the goals of Saudi Arabia's direct dialogue with Iran, it is widely believed, is to seek to end the war as soon as possible.

A UN-brokered truce, which first came into effect in April, also helps Iran and Saudi Arabia overcome obstacles and tackle thorny issues through dialogue, analysts said.

Experts in Iran believed that to alleviate the country's economic woes brought by U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government hopes to restore relations with Gulf Arab countries, thereby increasing economic and trade exchanges.


The United States has long sought to consolidate its influence in the Middle East through provoking bloc confrontation, and has recently proposed building a regional air defense alliance to combat Iran.

Still, Washington's tension-creating approach goes against the region's pursuit of reconciliation. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE's president, said during U.S. President Joe Biden's first Middle East tour that the UAE is "not part of any regional axis" confronting Iran.

"We are open to cooperation, but not cooperation targeting any other country in the region, and I specifically mention Iran," he said in mid-July.

The improvement of relations between Gulf Arab countries and Iran, especially a possible thaw in ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, will help the region build peace and stability and resist the interference of foreign forces in regional affairs, analysts said.

Speaking to the Qatari Al-Jazeera news channel, Mohammad Saleh Sedghian, head of Tehran-based think tank the Arab-Iranian Studies Centre, said recent regional and international developments have convinced Iran and Arab countries of the need to put aside differences and adopt the language of understanding and coordination for the benefit of the whole region.

Regional countries have realized that political, security or military confrontation does not serve the interests of their peoples, thereby dispatching officials and representatives to visit other capitals to overcome obstacles in bilateral relations, he added. Enditem

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