Anwar Gargash: UAE taking steps to defuse Iran tensions

Senior Emirati official says the UAE is working hard to build bridges with all countries

Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, speaks during a press conference in Dubai about the situation in Yemen on August 13, 2018. - The United Arab Emirates, Riyadh's main partner in the Saudi-led military coalition battling Huthi rebels in Yemen, says it is also determined to wipe out Al-Qaeda in the country's south. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
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The UAE has taken steps to de-escalate tension with Iran to avoid confrontation and build confidence, Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to President Sheikh Khalifa, said on Monday.

Regional tensions have increased between Iran and Gulf states as Tehran expands its influence in conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

“We are working hard to build communication and bridges with all countries, even those who we have disagreements with,” Dr Gargash said during the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.

Our recent outreach is to find shared interest around a collective future and prosperity
Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to President Sheikh Khalifa

For months the UAE has been supporting the idea of greater engagement with Iran.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s interference in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and have taken steps to de-escalate tensions. We don't have any interest in confrontation as the region will pay the price for decades to come,” Dr Gargash said.

He said dialogue was the only way to avoid confrontation in the region and that further escalation would have a devastating effect, especially when governments are trying to consolidate economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can build together greater confidence between us and make progress for a sustainable status quo. It will be better served for Iran to work co-operatively with its neighbours,” he said.

“Our recent outreach is to find shared interest around a collective future and prosperity."

For years the UAE has viewed Iran as a destabilising force in the region. Iranian security forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and allied militias have engaged in attacks on oil tankers in vital global shipping lanes, including off the UAE coast, and a major attack on energy plants in Saudi Arabia.

The US has blamed Iran for the attacks but Tehran denies all involvement.

The UAE has long pushed for countries in the region to be at the table for negotiations on a future nuclear deal after former US president Donald Trump’s administration abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018.

It believes the pact was flawed for not addressing Iran's missile programme and network of regional proxies.

Instead, the Emirates has pushed for the inclusion of the Iranian ballistic missile programme and support for regional armed groups to be included in a future deal.

An Iranian young boy wearing an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) uniform holds an Iran flag while Iran-made, Dezful medium range ballistic missile (Bottom) and Zolfaghar road-mobile single-stage solid-propelled liquid fueled missile are pictured in the Azadi (Freedom) square during a rally to commemorate the 42nd Victory anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, that held with motorcycles amid the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Iran, in Tehran on February 10, 2021, on February 10, 2021.  (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The pandemic has not changed everything, challenges before its emergence still exist but it has served us to reorder our priorities,” Dr Gargash said.

Coming out of the pandemic, the UAE will "be stepping up multilateral dialogue to address our common challenges", he said. It will be the only way to avoid a regional cold war, he said.

Dr Gargash's comments came before the US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, visits the UAE and other regional states on Thursday to discuss a "broad range of concerns" about Tehran before the next round of indirect nuclear talks.

The negotiations, which aim to restore the deal between Iran and six world powers, are set to resume this month. After a period of stalling, the Iranian government agreed to return to talks in Vienna on November 29.

Updated: November 15, 2021, 2:07 PM