UAE welcomes EU initiative to open diplomatic path with Iran

'We only want Iran as a normal neighbour,' Dr Anwar Gargash says

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash speaks to journalists in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, June 18, 2018. The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting against Shiite rebels for control of Yemen's port city of Hodeida. Gargash said Monday that the battle for Hodeida is aimed at forcing the country’s Shiite rebels into negotiating an end to a yearslong war. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
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The UAE welcomed an initiative by European leaders to ease tension with Iran and open a diplomatic path, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said on Monday.

Tension in the region has increased recently after attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which Washington blamed on Iran.

Tehran denied the accusations and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are backed the Iranian regime, claimed responsibility.

Leaders of Britain, France and Germany issued "a joint statement holding Iran responsible for the missile attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities in Abqaiq," Dr Gargash wrote in the Financial Times.

"They also called for new comprehensive talks to address Iran’s nuclear weapons programme."

The European officials pledged to try to ease tension in the Middle East and urged Iran to “refrain from choosing provocation and escalation".

By holding Iran to account, the three European states, or E3, “can discourage future attacks” and make room for diplomacy, Dr Gargash wrote.

Iran responded on Monday by saying that the attack on the kingdom’s oil sites was an act of “legitimate defence” by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

But Dr Gargash wrote that addressing Iran’s destabilising behaviour would enable the UAE to have a “productive relationship” with Tehran.

“With persistence, the E3 can open up a new channel of communication and establish greater trust," he said.

"They can help Tehran understand that the Gulf has achievable expectations. We only want Iran as a normal neighbour.

“Iran must permanently end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, cease the development and proliferation of ballistic and other missiles, end support for violent proxy groups and respect the sovereignty of other nations.

“There is an opening for Iran to reach a new understanding with its neighbours and the world.”

Dr Gargash urged Tehran to seize the opportunity “to refocus its attention on its own people rather than on its proxies abroad”.

The development would enable Iran to re-enter “the global trading system, build prosperity and expand opportunity", he said. "It is a blueprint for a new, shared and more stable regional order."

This is one of the central factors of the UAE’s foreign policy, Dr Gargash said.

“We have always seen enormous potential in the relationship and we believe that no country would benefit more than Iran itself,” he said.

“The UAE, Iran and other states can share the Gulf as normal neighbours, if not as the best of friends."