Iran’s Zarif in UAE on charm offensive

UAE’s president accepts an invitation to repay visit and go to Tehran as Iran continues to reach out to its neighbours.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has visited three Gulf nations this week [AFP]

Iran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for talks with the nation’s leader in another attempt to reach out to Gulf neighbours.

The Islamic Republic’s new government, led by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, has promised to work to improve ties with nearby Arab countries.

Iran has a strained relationship with the US-allied Gulf states, particularly regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to the UAE, home to the commercial hub of Dubai and the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi, was his third to a Gulf nation in a week.

Zarif held talks with the seven-state federation’s president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the Emirati city of Al Ain.

During their meeting, the Emirati leader reiterated his country’s support for Tehran’s decision last month to freeze parts of its nuclear programme in return for an easing of Western sanctions.

Khalifa also said his nation looked forward to enhancing regional stability and security and boosting bilateral cooperation, according to the WAM news agency’s account of the meeting. 

Iran’s charm offensive appears to be working so far. During Zarif’s visit, the president of the UAE accepted an invitation to visit Iran, the WAM news agency said.

“The date for the visit will be announced at a later stage,” WAM said.

Nuclear question

The UAE has shown a willingness to engage with the new Iranian leadership despite a difference of opinion on some issues such as Tehran’s control over Gulf islands claimed by both countries.

The UAE was one of the first countries in the region to welcome last month’s nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers, and dispatched its foreign minister to Tehran last week.

The West and its allies have expressed fear that Iran’s programme could be used to build an atomic bomb.

But Iran says it is only for peaceful purposes, such as producing electricity, and for scientific and medical research.

The UAE launched its own nuclear programme last year, becoming the first country in more than two and a half decades to begin building its first atomic power plant.

However, the Gulf country has agreed with the US not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel for plutonium, which can be used in nuclear bombs.