Last updated: 17 May, 2011

Iran top diplomat to visit Kuwait on Wednesday

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will travel to Kuwait on Wednesday to discuss bilateral and regional issues, ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has said.

The visit comes amid allegations of an Iranian spy ring operating in the Gulf state which soured relations between the two countries and saw them engage in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats early April.

“Salehi’s visit to Kuwait is in line with… efforts to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the countries in the region,” Mehmanparast said in remarks broadcast on state television on Tuesday.

“The views of each side as well as solutions to regional issues will be discussed during the visit,” he said.

In early April, Kuwait expelled three Iranian diplomats it accused of working for an Iranian spy ring, reportedly since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Iran in response expelled “several” Kuwaiti diplomats. The row also prompted the Gulf state to recall its ambassador from Tehran.

The Kuwait stopover will mark Salehi’s fifth regional trip in the past few weeks, following visits to Qatar, Oman, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.

Relations between the Sunni-ruled Arab states in the Gulf and non-Arab predominantly Shiite Iran were strained following a crackdown in March on protests in Bahrain that had been led by the tiny kingdom’s Shiite majority.

Mehmanparast said the foreign minister had also been conveying a message in his visits on the situation in Bahrain.

“We believe consultations among regional countries prove helpful in better understanding of the situation in Bahrain, and pave the way for an appropriate response to the legitimate demands of the people there,” Mehmanparast said.

“Exchange of views (on Bahrain) can narrow the gap between its people and government, and also help the stability and security of the region,” he said.

Tehran has repeatedly criticised Manama’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests, urging political reforms in the predominantly Shiite tiny emirate which has been ruled by a Sunni dynasty for more than 200 years.

The Islamic republic has also severely denounced the military intervention of Saudi-led troops to help Bahraini leaders quell the unrest, calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Gulf island.

Iran’s criticism provoked Gulf Arab monarchies to accuse it of interference in their affairs, particularly in Bahrain and Kuwait, with the intention of destabilising the region.