Iran’s top security official holds talks in the United Arab Emirates after the Riyadh-Tehran deal

Iran’s top security official held high-level talks in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, days after a shocking 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 increased cooperation,” according to the official WAM news agency.

He also held talks with UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan and discussed “bilateral relations,” WAM said.

“Iran and the UAE can take great strides towards expanding bilateral cooperation and strengthening neighboring diplomacy,” Shamkhani said during his meeting with the UAE president, according to Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA.

“Building a stronger region is an attainable ideal that we must all work towards.”

His trip came after Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday announced a China-brokered deal to end a seven-year rupture in diplomatic ties.

Before the shock was announced, Shamkhani had traveled to Beijing for intensive negotiations with his Saudi counterpart.

During talks with his Emirati counterpart on Thursday, Shamkhani called his visit to the UAE “a momentous start for the two countries to enter a new phase in 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.

Shiite-majority Iran and the Sunni-majority Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with their allies in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, support different sides in various armed and political conflicts in the region, particularly in Yemen and Syria.

In 2016, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries scaled back ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Iran after Riyadh executed prominent Shia 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 top Iranian diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in September that Tehran wanted to expand ties with the UAE.

Gregory Brew, Iran analyst at Eurasia Group, said Shamkhani’s visit to the UAE was “significant in that it highlights continued efforts by Gulf countries to improve ties with Iran.”

“The UAE is a key trading partner of Iran and has also become a key broker for Iran’s oil exports,” he told AFP, adding that Shamkhani may be discussing ways through UAE brokerage or diplomatic support to target Iranian assets frozen abroad access.


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