The UAE’s diplomatic adviser to the president, Anwar Gargash, said on Thursday that the Biden administration is right in prioritising the diplomatic path with Iran, but he stressed the need for regional voices at the negotiating table.
Mr Gargash, speaking at the Brookings Institute, made clear that “other than diplomacy, we [the UAE] see no option at all” with Iran. The senior Emirati official emphasised his country’s commitment to seeking de-escalation with Iran and said the UAE has dispatched such a message to Tehran through the European Union in the past.
“Even with maximum pressure [under Donald Trump], we sent messages [to Iran] through the Europeans about the need for diplomacy and de-escalation,” he said.
Though the UAE supports President Joe Biden's seeking nuclear negotiations with Iran, the country is urging regional input in the process. “The Biden administration is doing the right thing with Iran in terms of prioritising diplomacy,” Mr Gargash said. “We like what we see at the strategic level … at the detailed level, we would like to see a regional voice.”
The UAE has long pushed for regional countries to be at the table in negotiations on a future nuclear deal after the Trump administration abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018. It is also advocating the inclusion of regional issues such as the Iranian ballistic missile programme and support for armed proxies in such talks.
“Are we concerned about missiles, proxy politics? Yes, we need these to be taken into account,” Mr Gargash said.
When asked about comments by Israeli officials that float a military option with Iran, Mr Gargash called it “very dangerous”, stressing that his country sees only diplomatic options in addressing the stalemate.
The UAE senior official characterised the incoming period as one of de-escalation and pursuing diplomacy in the region and said he saw this also playing out in Yemen, Libya and Iran.
When asked about the Qatar rapprochement, Mr Gargash was hopeful that the crisis was nearing its end. "We are on the right track … much of more normal interactions have returned,” he said.
He also emphasised the need to integrate economic interests with security and stability when talking about regional strategies. "We aspire to be more than a regional centre and that will make us more of a partner, not just for oil and security but for other reasons that are shaping our world today,” he said.
On the issue of the Abraham Accord, Mr Gargash hoped to utilise UAE’s role in assisting the Palestinians and helping a negotiated settlement that reaches a two-state solution. He added that the UAE remains steadfast in supporting such an outcome.