The president of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday accepted an invitation to visit Iran, the WAM state news agency said, as Tehran looks to mend ties with Gulf states.
The Sunni monarchies of the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, have long viewed Shiite Iran as a regional rival and the two sides are currently locked in a proxy war in Syria, with Tehran backing the regime and Saudi Arabia and Qatar supporting Sunni-led rebels.
But Iran has tried to improve relations in recent weeks following a landmark agreement on its nuclear programme, which the Gulf countries and the West have long suspected is aimed at developing a weapons capability, allegations denied by Tehran.
The invitation was delivered to the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a meeting between the two in a palace in Al-Ain, in the east of the Emirates.
“The date for the visit will be announced at a later stage,” WAM said.
Sheikh Khalifa told his guest that the UAE welcomes the nuclear deal, stressing that his nation aspires for “strengthened security and stability in the region and cooperation between countries,” WAM said.
Zarif is in the UAE as part of a Gulf tour that has taken him to Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
He said Iran’s newly elected president Hasan Rouhani wishes to strengthen relations with Gulf countries, “stressing that Iran gives high importance to its relations with neighbours, especially the UAE,” WAM reported.
In Kuwait, Zarif reassured Gulf Arab states on Sunday that Tehran’s nuclear deal is in their interest.
The deal was struck in Geneva last month between Iran and the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.
Iran agreed to freeze parts of its controversial programme in exchange for an estimated $7.0 billion of relief from crippling sanctions in an interim deal aimed at buying time for the negotiation of a comprehensive accord.
The Gulf states have called on Tehran to fully cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog in implementing the deal.