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On December 6th, 2021, the national security adviser of the UAE met his Iranian counterpart and the Islamic Republic’s president in Tehran, a major visit for the Gulf Arab federation that has long viewed Iran as its main regional threat.

Leading a delegation of Emirati officials, the UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al-Nahyan visited Tehran after weeks of speculation about the date of the visit.

The visit comes against a backdrop of Emirati push to patch up ties with one-time rivals such as Qatar, Turkey, and Iran.

Sheikh Tahnoon played a pivotal role in amending ties with all these countries, an indication of the powerful position the man enjoys in the Emirati government. He traveled to Qatar and Turkey and met with the two countries’ leaders respectively. After his visits to Doha and Ankara, other Emirati officials met with their Qatari and Turkish officials. This suggests that Sheikh Tahnoon served as a road roller paving the way for further high-level meetings between Emirati leaders and their rivals.

Sheikh Tahnoon, a brother of the country’s de facto ruler and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, discussed improving bilateral ties and developments in regional affairs.

The security chief emphasized that countries in the region should not be affected by external influence and meddling, and must work to end military and security crises through dialogue and not military action.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, a country engulfed by a dire humanitarian crisis.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have held four rounds of Iraq-mediated talks in Baghdad since April.

During Monday’s meeting with Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said “Stability and lasting security will only be established through continuous dialogue and cooperation between the countries of the region”. Sheikh Tahnoon was quoted as saying that the UAE also wants to improve “warm and brotherly” ties with Iran as a geopolitical power.

Sheikh Tahnoon proposed that the two countries should form expert working groups that would identify potential areas of boosting economic, transit, energy, and health sector relations and to remove possible obstacles. The visit comes after deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, visited Dubai in November 2021, to meet several senior Emirati officials.

Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, said on November 2021, that the UAE was taking steps to de-escalate tensions with Iran as part of a policy choice towards diplomacy and away from confrontation.

Gargash wrote in a tweet on December 6th, that Sheikh Tahnoon’s visit to Tehran “comes as a continuation of the UAE’s efforts to strengthen bridges of communication and cooperation in the region which would serve the national interest”.

The UAE seeks to boost regional stability and prosperity by developing positive relations through dialogue and building on the shared interest and managing divergent views” he said.


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