The United Arab Emirates says its ambassador to Iran, Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi, will return to Tehran in the “coming days”, more than six years after the Gulf Arab state downgraded ties with Tehran.

The announcement on Sunday is in line with the UAE’s efforts to strengthen ties with Iran, “to achieve the common interests of both countries and the wider region”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The UAE withdrew its ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Iran following the execution of prominent Shia scholar Nimr al-Nimr by Riyadh.

Last week, Emirati and Iranian foreign ministers held a telephone conversation and they discussed scaling up ties, UAE state media reported, where they discussed sending an ambassador back to Tehran.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirbadullahian discussed ways to “promote areas of bilateral ties and cooperation for the benefit of both countries”, the UAE’s state news agency WAM then reported. .

After years of hostility on different sides of the geopolitical rivalry, the UAE began to reconnect with Iran in 2019 following attacks on Gulf waters and Saudi energy sites.

Last year, Saudi Arabia also moved to improve relations with Iran at a time when Gulf Arab states are closely tracking Tehran’s efforts to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which they see as their own. Deems flawed for not addressing the missile program.

While Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want to end Tehran’s moves in the region, they also want to control tensions while focusing on economic priorities.

The UAE’s trade and trading ties with Iran date back more than a century, with the Emirate of Dubai long one of Iran’s main links to the outside world.

Fellow Gulf State Kuwait earlier this month appointed its first ambassador to Iran since 2016.

Diplomatic relations have warmed up after the UAE normalized ties with Israel in September 2020. Three other Arab countries – Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – also forged diplomatic relations with Israel under the so-called Abrahamic Agreement brokered by the United States.

Even as the UAE normalizes relations with Tehran’s regional foe, emirate officials have stepped up efforts to boost trade ties with Iran and reduce threats from its regional proxy.

Earlier this year, drone and missile attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen struck Abu Dhabi, hurting the UAE’s reputation as a safe haven in a volatile region.

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