x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Iran's foreign minister visits Abu Dhabi

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with top UAE officials

DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, met with the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, in Abu Dhabi yesterday after weeks of tough words between Iran and the Gulf Arab states.

Also present at the Presidential Palace were Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Foreign Minister, reported the state news agency WAM.

The visit by Mr Salehi comes a week after similar trips to Qatar and Oman.

His government has criticised Gulf Arab states for backing Bahrain's clampdown on protests by its majority Shiite population. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia sent security forces to aid their Bahraini counterparts.

Last month Iran's chief of staff of the armed forces, Gen Hassan Firouzabadi, laid claim to the countries' shared body of water, saying: "The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran". In response, Gulf Arab states condemned Iran's alleged meddling in Bahrain and other Gulf affairs. In mid-April they sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with evidence of Iranian interference, and called on the Security Council to put a stop to such actions.

"Iran should reconsider its policies in the region" and "respect the unity and sovereignty of Gulf countries," Sheikh Abdullah said in Abu Dhabi last month after a meeting between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"I'm trying to weigh up my words accurately because I don't want to act like some Iranian officials who throw words in a crude and inappropriate way," he said.

During a visit to Dubai also in April, Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, said: "We have never seen a sustained campaign from Iran on Bahrain and the Gulf like we've seen in the past two months."

The GCC is to meet in Riyadh tomorrow.