Iran cosies up to UAE days after French warplane sale

DEC 7, 2021 LISTEN

Iran has said it hopes to turn the page in its ties with the United Arab Emirates during a rare visit by a senior official from the Gulf Arab country.

The meeting comes days after France sold 80 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE during a visit of French President Emmanuel Macron. 

UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan arrived in the country earlier Monday at the invitation of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

His visit also included a meeting with ultraconservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, state media said.

The trip was the first of its kind since relations between the two countries were downgraded in 2016.

That came after UAE ally Saudi Arabia severed ties with the Islamic republic after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions over Riyadh's execution of a revered Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

'Good relations'
"Good relations with the countries of the region are one of the priorities of the new government's foreign policy," Raisi said during the meeting, according to the official news agency IRNA.

"We therefore welcome the development of relations with the United Arab Emirates," he said.

"Relations between two Muslim countries should not be affected by the interference of foreigners," Raisi added.

Israel, which established ties with the UAE in 2020 under the Abraham Accords, is following developments with caution. 

“This is very worrisome for Israel,” Dr. Moran Zaga, an expert with the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post.

 “Rapprochement will come with a price. Getting closer to Iran and getting closer to Israel doesn't work together.” 

Iran isn't happy either with the UAE getting closer to Israel, its arch enemy in the region.

According to the Financial Times, both countries recently saw a "flurry of corporate deals" but Raisi, quoted by Irna News warned the UAE that it thinks Israel is trying to "find a foothold" which it may "turn into a tool for expansionism."

On a larger, regional scale, Shiite Iran and the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, back opposite sides in various armed and political conflicts in the region, most notably in Yemen and Syria.

But in the past months there have been signs of rapprochement as Saudi Arabia and Iran have held several rounds of talks aimed at improving ties.

Sheikh Tahnoun "expressed hopes that the visit... would be the start of a new period of relations between the two countries", an official statement said.

He also said he hopes it would "pave the way to the consolidation and overall expansion of bilateral relations", the statement added.

"France 'destablising' the region"
Earlier in the day, Tehran accused France of "destabilising" the region by selling arms to Gulf countries, days after Paris struck a record 14-billion-euro deal with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale fighter jets.

"We must not ignore France's role in destabilising the region," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference.

"We expected France to be more responsible.
"The militarisation of our region is unacceptable and the weapons they sell in the region are the source of turmoil."

(With wires)

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