DUBAI // The outgoing Iranian ambassador to the UAE was honoured last night for his role in improving relations between the two countries. Dr Hamid Reza Asefi was awarded the Order of Independence of the First Degree by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Khalifa did not appear at the presentation in the Shangri-La Hotel, which was attended mostly by members of the business community.
Dr Asefi expressed gratitude to the President for the honour and praised Sheikh Khalifa for his policies. He also thanked UAE officials, especially those at the Foreign Ministry, for the co-operation he received during his tenure. "I was honoured to receive this award, and it demonstrates the importance of bilateral agreements between Iran and the Emirates," he said. "It belongs to everyone who has worked to bring the two countries closer. The relationship now between the two countries is the best it has been in the past 30 years in political economic and cultural fields."
The UAE and Iran do dispute the ownership of three islands in the Strait of Hormuz: Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. Iran seized the islands on the eve of independence in 1971, and has not responded to diplomatic overtures. But that issue was not on the agenda last night. During his tenure as ambassador to the UAE, which began in August 2006, Dr Asefi was a leading advocate of increasing co-operation and developing cultural ties between the two countries. He previously held the post of ambassador to France and Germany.