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Iran FM eyes reconciliation in first Gulf visit
December 1, 2013, 3:06 pm

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Kuwait on Sunday, on his first visit to a Gulf Arab states that will also take him to Oman.

Zarif attended an economic meeting in Kuwait and held talks with officials in the emirate on “bilateral relations, regional and international developments,” according to Kuwaiti news agency Kuna.

“The foreign minister will also travel to Oman to hold talks on Tehran-Muscat bilateral relations as well as regional and international developments,” Iran’s Irna news agency said.

Zarif said in Kuwait that his country’s nuclear deal with the West is in Gulf states’ interest.

“The solution to this issue serves the interests of all countries in the region. It is not at the expense of any state in the region,” Zarif said.

“Be assured that the nuclear deal is in favour of the stability and security of the region,” Zarif said in his first official visit to a Gulf Arab nation.

He also announced plans to visit Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait’s official news agency Kuna said that Zarif met the country’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and delivered a verbal message from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. “They discussed bilateral relations between the two friendly nations and their people, as well as ways to develop those relations,” reported Kuna.

Iran’s new government has promised to build closer ties with nearby Arab countries. The Islamic Republic has a tense relationship with Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Tehran last week.

Bahrain last week announced that it had invited Zarif to attend the Manama Dialogue security conference that is due to be held from December 6-8. Iran is yet to formally respond to the invitation. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel is expected to attend.

Zarif’s visit comes a week after Iran and western powers struck a landmark agreement on the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear programme.

The deal was welcomed by the Gulf Arab states, most of which have long been concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions.

Oman maintains good relations with Tehran, and Sultan Qaboos was the first guest of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani following his inauguration on August 3.

Shortly after his election, Rouhani said he hoped to improve relations with neighbouring countries, especially Gulf states.

According to reports, Oman hosted secret talks between Iran and the United States in the lead-up to the six-month accord on its nuclear programme.

Oman has also acted as an intermediary between Western countries and Iran in recent years.

The Gulf state’s mediation has helped to free US nationals detained in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties in the 1980s.

Oman is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Other oil- and gas-rich states of the GCC have strained ties with Iran, which they accuse of trying to meddle in their internal affairs.

Relations between the GCC states and Tehran have deteriorated further because of Iran’s support for President Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s civil war.


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