Reports: UAE, Saudi Arabia pursuing dialogue with Iran
A top ranking United Arab Emirates says his country is holding dialogue with Iran while Saudi Arabia confirmed that its first round of direct talks with Iran’s new government was held last month. Officials of these two Persian Gulf states say the talks are aimed at reducing regional tensions.
Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president says his country is trying to manage long-running rivalries with Iran and Turkey through dialogue to avoid any new confrontations in the region as the Persian Gulf state hones in on its economy post-COVID-19, a senior official said.
He told a conference on Saturday there was uncertainty about the United States’ commitment to the region and concern about a “looming Cold War” between Washington and Beijing.
China-US rivalry factor
Persian Gulf states, which have strong economic ties with China, are also heavily reliant on the US military umbrella and are closely watching talks between global powers and Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.
“We will see in the coming period really what is going on with regards to America’s footprint in the region. I don’t think we know yet, but Afghanistan is definitely a test and to be honest it is a very worrying test,” Gargash said.
“Part of what we need to do is manage our region better. There is a vacuum and whenever there is a vacuum there is trouble,” he told the World Policy Conference.
Iran’s FM talks with UAE Premier
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently reiterated Iran's resolve to cooperate with all neighbors, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), saying the two countries can make strides toward promoting good neighborliness in the region.
In a post on his Twitter account early September, Amir-Abdollahian said he had “a positive and cordial conversation” with UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on the sidelines of the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership which was held on August 28.
The top Iranian diplomat said during his conversation with the Emirati premier, the two sides “spoke about the positive intentions and will of the two countries’ leaders to strengthen ties and emphasized fraternal relations between the two states.”
“Iran and the UAE can take big steps toward cooperation and realization of the policy and diplomacy of [good] neighborliness,” he said.
Saudi Arabia hopes to resolve issues with Iran
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia confirmed on Sunday it had held its first round of direct talks with Iran’s new government last month, part of a process begun earlier this year to reduce tension between these two major Persian Gulf Muslim powers.
Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said the latest round had taken place on Sept. 21. He did not give the location of the meeting.
“These discussions are still in the exploratory phase. We hope they will provide a basis to address unresolved issues between the two sides and we will strive and work to realize that,” he noted.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran.
For years, the kingdom pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, but it recently appeared to have changed track.
Last month, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran is pleased with how negotiations on bilateral issues have proceeded with Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that the two regional players have the capacity to establish “sustainable” ties.
Speaking to the IRNA news agency, Khatibzadeh said that the Islamic Republic had several rounds of talks with the Saudi government in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, over the past few months.
“There have been good talks regarding bilateral issues,” he added. “There has also been very serious progress in negotiations concerning the security of the Persian Gulf.”
The spokesman further said that the talks have never stopped and that messages were exchanged between the two sides at an appropriate level after the administration of Iran’s President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi took office in August.
“We think that we can have a stable and good relationship between the two important countries in the region, i.e. Iran and Saudi Arabia, if the government of the Saudi Kingdom pays serious attention to a message from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which says the solution to the problems in the region lies within the region itself and we must reach a comprehensive regional mechanism.”
Effective interaction and confidence building
During his pre-recorded video address to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Iran’s President Raeisi said, “I seek effective interaction with all the countries of the world especially with our neighbors and shake their hands warmly.”
Addressing the same gathering via video, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud expressed hope that Riyadh's direct dialog with Tehran will lead to confidence building.
"Iran is a neighboring country, and we hope that our initial talks with it will lead to concrete results to build confidence ... based on... respect of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs," he said
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to express its readiness for dialogue and peace and offers a helping hand to neighbors and regional countries.