The United Arab Emirates has said it plans to return its ambassador to Tehran after a six-year gap, restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran as a regional rapprochement gathers pace.
The UAE foreign ministry in a statement said its ambassador, Saif Al Zaabi, would return to Tehran “in the coming days”.
HIs return follows three years of tentative diplomacy as the UAE has sought to ease tensions that had boiled over after former US president Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018.
The UAE, an important US ally, was keen to improve relations after commercial shipping was attacked near UAE waters close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
US officials also blamed Iran and its proxies for drone and missile attacks that struck at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in 2019, temporarily knocking out about half the kingdom’s crude output.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, have long accused Shia Iran of being a destabilising force in the region. The rivals found themselves on opposing sides of regional conflicts, notably Yemen, where the Gulf states intervened in 2015 after Iran-allied Houthi rebels ousted the internationally recognised government.
But after tensions soared in the wake of Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal and pursue a policy of maximum pressure against Iran, the UAE, worried about its own vulnerability to an Iranian attack, sought to repair relations with Tehran and bolster economic ties with the republic.
The restoration of diplomatic ties follows fellow Gulf state Kuwait’s decision to reinstate its ambassador in Tehran earlier this week. Saudi Arabia has also held several rounds of talks with Iran over the past year in an effort to improve its relations with the Islamic republic.
The UAE recalled its ambassador in 2016, following Riyadh’s decision to sever ties with Iran in the wake of protests in Tehran that targeted the Saudi mission in the republic’s capital. Iranian demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the kingdom executed an influential Shia cleric.
Western powers have been seeking to negotiate a revival of the nuclear pact with Iran that would lead to the US rejoining and easing sanctions on the republic in return for Tehran’s agreeing to strict limits on its nuclear activities.
The UAE and its Arab allies have been concerned that efforts to revive the 2015 pact have failed to take into consideration efforts to stymie Iran’s ballistic missile programme and what they regard as Iranian interference in the Arab world through proxy militias. But the Gulf state, which is the region’s main trade, tourism and finance hub, also wants to maintain relations with Tehran and develop its economic links with the republic.