DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates is considering sending an ambassador to Iran, a senior official said on 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’ neighbour 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 Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

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

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 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.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2022

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