UAE ambassador to return to Iran, boosting ties after years

In this photo released on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. Kanaani denied on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, that Tehran was involved in the assault on author Salman Rushdie, in remarks that were the country's first public comments on the attack. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates plans to reinstate its ambassador to Iran for the first time in six years, the Emirati Foreign Ministry announced, as the Gulf Arab federation accelerates efforts to improve ties with the nation it has long viewed as a regional threat. 

The Emirates’ ambassador to Iran, Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi, will return to Tehran to “continue pushing bilateral relations forward to achieve the common interests of the two neighbors and the region,” the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported. 

Ties between the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms and Iran deteriorated after Iranian crowds stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran to protest against the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. In 2016, the UAE summoned home its ambassador in Tehran. Relations between the countries soured further as the UAE backed former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic. 

But Abu Dhabi sought to reconsider after Iran was blamed for a series of attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE and on Saudi oil facilities in 2019. Meanwhile Dubai, with its large community of Iranian expats, has long served as a lifeline to the outside world for Tehran as it suffered under international sanctions.