Gargash: Escalation with Iran 'serves no one, collective diplomacy needed'

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs shared his thoughts on regional conflicts at the Emirates Policy Centre's annual Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 10, 2019: Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs speaks at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. Sunday the 10th of November 2019. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Iran should come to the table to talk about a new deal that tackles its nuclear programme, ballistic missiles and regional interference, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Sunday.

Tension remains high over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers, which the US unilaterally withdrew from over a year ago.

The September attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities, which Riyadh and Washington believe were conducted by Iran, have only worsened the situation.

“For such a process to work, it is essential that the international community is on the same page, especially the US and the EU, as well as the Arab Gulf states,” Dr Gargash said during the annual Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.

It is vital to include Arab Gulf states in these negotiations, he said.

Dr Gargash said diplomacy is needed now more than ever to "create a new, more stable regional order in which all countries will be able to thrive."

When it comes to the nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the international community "should not fall for the false choice between war on the one hand or a flawed JCPOA on the other," he said.

Instead, what is needed is a renewed, robust and realistic diplomatic effort to reach a more sustainable agreement.

“Further escalation at this point serves no one and we strongly believe that there is room for collective diplomacy to succeed,” he said.

Since pulling out of the nuclear deal, the US has imposed several sanctions as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran.

Dr Gargash said talks with Iran must not only deal with the nuclear issue but also its ballistic missile programme and regional interference through proxy groups.

“I believe there could be a path to a deal with Iran that all parties might soon be ready to embark on. It will be long, and patience and courage will be required,” he said.


Dr Gargash said last week's signing of the Riyadh Agreement on a power-sharing deal between the government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council left him with a “real sense of optimism.”

"The agreement solidifies the anti-Houthi coalition and provides a more robust basis for reaching a political solution. Now we need to build on the momentum this has given us," he said.

Dr Gargash believes that the deal brings Yemen's warring factions one step closer to engaging in a peace process that stalled after the signing of the Stockholm agreement between the Houthis and the government in December 2018.

The deal included a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah, the opening of a humanitarian corridor for the movement of aid in the city of Taiz and a prisoner swap that sought to build confidence.

But progress on enforcing the agreement was slow due to a lack of trust between the two sides.

"The coalition kept the pressure on the Houthis precisely in order to facilitate the peace process and we have fully supported the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement," he said.

Earlier this year, the UAE said it was moving  its troops in Yemen. The change was made to shift the emphasis of the coalition's effort from a "military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy", the government said at the time.

"Indeed, the UAE redeployed its forces away from Hodeidah in order to allow space for the agreement to work," Dr Gargash said.

The UAE's priorities within the coalition will be to continue "to provide humanitarian aid, counter [terrorist] threats and protect maritime security," Dr Gargash said.

It will also lend "ongoing support to the government of Yemen and the UN in their efforts to achieve a sustainable political solution."

Security assurances for neighbouring states must be part of any sustainable political solution in Yemen, he said.

“The international community, and especially the UN Security Council, can be instrumental in helping to bring such a solution into being. And the UAE will certainly continue to play its part,” Dr Gargash said.