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UAE Ambassador to Return to Iran, Boosting Ties After Years

Iranians walk through Tehran Bazaar, in Tehran
Iranians walk through Tehran Bazaar, in Tehran

The United Arab Emirates plans to reinstate its ambassador to Iran for the first time in six years, the Emirati Foreign Ministry announced Sunday, as the Gulf Arab federation accelerates efforts to improve ties with the nation it has long viewed as a regional threat.

The Emirates' ambassador to Iran, Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi, will return to Tehran in the coming days to "continue pushing bilateral relations forward to achieve the common interests of the two neighbors and the region," the UAE's state-run WAM news agency reported.

The move comes as American and Iranian diplomats now seek to end 16 months of negotiations over the revival of Tehran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

Other Gulf Arab states have advocated a detente. Last week, Kuwait appointed a new ambassador to Tehran for the first time since 2016. Saudi Arabia has similarly worked to cool tensions with Iran in a series of Baghdad-mediated talks.

Ties between the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms and Iran deteriorated after Iranian crowds stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran to protest the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric. In 2016, the UAE summoned home its ambassador in Tehran. Relations between the countries soured further as the UAE backed former President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal and so-called "maximum pressure" campaign against the Islamic Republic.

But Abu Dhabi sought to reconsider after Iran was blamed for a series of attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE and on Saudi oil facilities in 2019. Meanwhile Dubai, with its large community of Iranian expats, has long served as a lifeline to the outside world for Tehran as it suffered under international sanctions.

Even as the UAE normalized ties last year with Tehran's regional foe, Israel, Emirati officials have escalated efforts to boost trade relations with Iran and reduce the threat from its regional proxies. Earlier this year, drone and missile strikes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen hit Abu Dhabi, hurting the UAE's reputation as a haven in a volatile region.

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