Dialogue with Iran is a “waste of time” while Tehran continues to interfere in the internal affairs of the Gulf states, a senior Gulf Cooperation Council official has reportedly said.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, Hussain Amir Abdollahian, recently said that Gulf states and Iran were expected to hold direct talks in September. No GCC officials confirmed the reports but Omani foreign minister Yousuf Bin Alawi had earlier suggested that such a meeting could take place.
A senior unnamed GCC official has, however, told Saudi-owned Al Sharq Al Awsat in a report published on Tuesday that such a meeting is unlikely to take place.
The official said that a proposal by Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Atiyya for Gulf states to meet directly with Iranian officials was turned down by other Gulf states.
Qatar reportedly floated the idea at a recent GCC foreign ministers’ meeting in Riyadh, suggesting that the talks should be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on September 22.
Oman welcomed the idea “without hesitation” and Kuwait “did not mind”, reported the paper. The remaining three states, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, however expressed “deep reservations about holding talks at a time when Tehran continued its efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Gulf states”.
“Dialogue with Iran would be a waste of time and effort in light of [Tehran’s] hostile policy,” the official was quoted as saying. “[It] would weaken the decisive position the GCC countries have adopted under the leadership of Saudi Arabia”.
Iran has, however, once again repeated its willingness to talk to Gulf states. Vice- President Masumeh Ebtekar told the BBC that Tehran is ready to work with rival countries in the Middle East to endorse peace in the aftermath of the nuclear deal it signed with world powers last month.
She said that while Tehran had the right to defend itself, it had no intention of dominating the region.
Ebtekar hoped to regain the trust of neighbouring states and cooperate with them to counter extremist groups in the region, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The GCC official told Al Sharq Al Awsat that efforts by Iran to reach out to Gulf states showed that it was “desperate” to negotiate with the GCC to stop the losses it has suffered in Yemen in recent weeks, in apparent reference to losses suffered by its Al Houthi allies.
Iran has long been accused of fomenting unrest throughout the Middle East, providing assistance to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, and backing Yemen’s Al Houthi militia.
Ebtekar said the recent deal where Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the end of crippling sanctions represented a “step forward” for the whole world.
“It means a new era of working with the world in terms of different dimensions of trade, cultural exchanges,” she explained. “It means that Iran is going to be a more prominent player in this part of the world.”
The vice-president insisted that Iran would not stop supporting those “threatened by the policies of the Zionist regime”, referring to the Israeli regime, and needed to be able to defend itself in a region where there were so many US military bases.
But, she added, Iran also wanted to use its influence “to promote peace and stability”. “Our foreign minister is travelling in the region, because maintaining ties, actually restoring trust with our neighbours is an issue for us.”
“We hope to be able to restore that trust working with different regional states to be able to stand firm against extremism, against terrorism, against [Daesh] which is a terrible phenomenon,” she added.
She said Iran had been “trying to establish a dialogue” through diplomatic channels with regional Saudi Arabia, which is leading an international coalition trying to drive back Al Houthi militiamen in Yemen and restore the country’s exiled president.
“We have to resolve the war in Yemen which is devastating that nation.”
– with inputs from IANS