Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently concluded his Gulf tour after visiting the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. This tour took place amid the stalled nuclear talks and Iran’s consistent efforts to reduce its regional and international isolation. The tour aimed to identify avenues of cooperation with the Gulf States and possibly reach out to the West through indirect talks to address the nuclear stalemate.
During his visit to the UAE, he met with the country’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. Iran and the UAE signed an agreement to increase air transport services and trade and tourism opportunities between both countries. During his visit to Qatar, Abdollahian met the country’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and discussed ways to increase bilateral cooperation. Earlier, Iran’s Central Bank Governor Mohammed Reza Farzin visited Qatar to discuss ways to increase economic engagement and tackle impediments to monetary and banking issues. Iran and Qatar recently signed bilateral agreements to cooperate on a skilled workforce program through which Doha will recruit Iranian workers and technicians to be employed in various economic sectors. In March, a delegation of Iranian and Qatari business leaders met in Tehran during a forum that was organized to explore potential areas for cooperation in the investment and manufacturing sectors. Both countries have increased their economic cooperation in recent months and as per reports, the volume of bilateral trade between Qatar and Iran has grown by 77% compared to last year.
During Abdollahian’s visit to Kuwait, he met with the country’s Prime Minister Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and his Kuwaiti counterpart Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. They confirmed that Iran and Kuwait were pursuing mutual interests and working to expand their bilateral relations. Abdollahian had proposed establishing a forum encompassing the Arabian Gulf littoral states to enhance cooperation and reiterated this proposal during his meeting with Kuwait’s prime minister. The visit occurred against the backdrop of disagreements between both countries over the Al-Dorra offshore gas field. Kuwait has reinvited Iran to discuss the sea borders after Tehran decided to initiate drilling in the disputed gas field. Recently, Kuwait reaffirmed that it held “exclusive rights” over the gas field along with Saudi Arabia after both countries had agreed to jointly develop it in 2022. Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement, “The State of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia… alone have exclusive rights to the natural wealth in the Al-Dorra field.” Kuwait’s Oil Minister Saad al-Barrak “categorically and totally” rejected Iran’s planned activities in the gas field.
During his visit to Oman, Abdollahian met with the country’s Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi and as per reports, both discussed regional issues including the situation in Yemen. The foreign ministers also discussed the possibility of bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, science, technology, tourism and trade and agreed to hold a meeting for a joint economic commission in the future. Earlier in May, Iran and Oman signed agreements to increase bilateral economic cooperation and as per reports, the delegations sought to finalize a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement between both countries. Recent reports indicate that the volume of trade between Iran and Oman has grown by 41% compared to last year and Iran’s exports to Oman have grown by 51% percent and imports by 29%.
Abdollahian’s Gulf tour sent signals to the international community, especially to the United States, and it aimed to achieve a number of objectives. Firstly, Iran aims to increase its regional cooperation and the recent diplomatic moves aim to identify and boost cooperation in critical sectors such as energy and infrastructure. Secondly, amid the stalled nuclear talks, Iran has depended on Gulf states like Qatar and Oman to play a mediating role in order to reach out to the West. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Nasser Kanaani during a press conference recently said that Iran had sensed positive steps in the nuclear talks. However, these still do not meet the demands of the Iranian leadership. In June, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani held a meeting with the EU coordinator for the nuclear talks Enrique Mora in Qatar to identify ways to end the nuclear stalemate. EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Peter Stano also confirmed the meeting between Iranian officials and EU representatives in Qatar “to address all issues of concern with Iran.” Thirdly, by reaching out to its neighbors and de-escalating tensions, Iran aims to create a favorable environment for engagement with its regional partners to help in alleviating its domestic socioeconomic woes. The surge in food prices and the rising inflation rate in Iran are major challenges for the Iranian government, which continues to face protests from different sections of society.