Iran security official holds talks in UAE after Saudi-Tehran deal

Image: AFP
Image: AFP

DUBAI: Iran’s top security official on Thursday held high-level talks in the United Arab Emirates, days after a shock rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, met with Emirati president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in the capital Abu Dhabi to discuss “opportunities for enhancing cooperation”, according to the official WAM news agency.

He also held talks with the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and discussed “bilateral relations”, WAM said. “Iran and the UAE can take great steps on the path of expanding bilateral cooperation and strengthening neighboring diplomacy,” Shamkhani said during his meeting with the UAE president, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA. “The formation of a stronger region is an attainable ideal that we all must take steps towards.”

His trip came after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced a Chinese-brokered deal on Friday to end a seven-year rupture in diplomatic ties. Shamkhani had travelled to Beijing for intensive negotiations with his Saudi counterpart ahead of the shock announcement. During talks with his Emirati counterpart on Thursday, Shamkhani called his UAE visit “a meaningful beginning for the two countries to enter a new stage of political, economic and security relations”, according to IRNA.

“We should try to increase the security, peace and well-being of the people of the region through dialogue and interaction… while preventing foreigners from playing a non-constructive role,” Shamkhani said. Iran and Saudi Arabia, along with its allies in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, back opposite sides in various armed and political conflicts in the region, most notably in Yemen and Syria.

In 2016, the UAE and other Gulf states scaled back their ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Iran following Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. Despite the diplomatic downgrade, the oil-rich UAE maintained strong economic ties with Iran. Last year, the UAE’s ambassador to Tehran resumed his duties after a six-year absence, while in September, Iran’s top diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran wanted to broaden relations with the UAE.

Gregory Brew, Iran analyst at Eurasia Group, said Shamkhani’s UAE visit is “significant in that it indicates continued efforts by the Gulf countries to improve relations with Iran”. “The UAE is a major trading partner to Iran, and has also become an important intermediary for Iran’s oil exports,” he told AFP, adding that Shamkhani may be discussing ways to access Iranian assets frozen overseas through UAE mediation or diplomatic support.

Meanwhile, the UAE has pledged $3 million to support the reconstruction of a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank that was raided by Zionist settlers, state media said Thursday. Deadly violence and arson by settlers targeted the town of Huwara in the northern West Bank late last month. Thirty houses were burned and damaged, according to local officials, after dozens of Zionist settlers set them ablaze. Bezalel Smotrich, the Zionist entity’s finance minister and an extreme-right settler, later said “Huwara needs to be wiped out”, sparking widespread condemnation, including from the UAE, the UN, the United States and France.

Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed ordered “the provision of $3 million to support the reconstruction of the Palestinian town of Huwara and those affected by the latest events”, WAM said. The initiative reflects “the UAE’s humanitarian efforts to support the brotherly Palestinian people”, WAM added.

The UAE and the Zionist entity have steadily deepened ties since they normalized relations in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. But the Gulf state has also issued a spate of condemnations against Zionist forces this year, including for storming the Palestinian camp of Jenin and the city of Nablus. Anwar Gargash, a senior adviser to the UAE president, called the $3 million pledge an “authentic” expression of the country’s “consistent and firm” support for the Palestinian people.

The West Bank, which the Zionist entity has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians. It also houses an estimated 475,000 Zionist settlers who live in state-approved settlements considered illegal under international law. Since the start of the year, the Zionist-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 81 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians. – AFP

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