UAE, Iran Hold Rare Talks in Tehran on Maritime Security

Official from United Arab Emirates, an ally of Saudi Arabia, says contacts unrelated to tensions in the Persian Gulf and focused on border security, naval navigation

Sailors stand above a hole the U.S. Navy says was made by a limpet mine on the damaged Panama-flagged, Japanese owned oil tanker Kokuka Courageous, Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, June 19, 2019.
AP

Officials from the United Arab Emirates and Iran have met to discuss maritime security for the first time in six years amid a spike in tensions in the Persian Gulf.

An Emirati official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the talks, said the meetings focused on issues related to border security and navigation in shared waters, describing the talks as "nothing new" and unrelated to current tensions.

The state-run IRAN daily reported that a seven-member delegation from Abu Dhabi met with Iranian border and coastguard commanders in Tehran on Tuesday in the first such meeting since 2013.

The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia. The two Arab Gulf countries view Iran as a regional menace and are at war with Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen.

The UAE has long lobbied for a more hawkish U.S. policy toward Iran, but as tensions have risen in recent months, fears of a wider conflict have prompted the UAE to call for de-escalation.

In another development, Iran has dismissed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's offer to visit and address the Iranian people as a "hypocritical gesture."

Addressing Pompeo in remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said "You don't need to come to Iran." He suggested Pompeo instead grant visas for Iranian reporters to travel to the United States and interview him, accusing Pompeo of having rejected their requests.

On Monday, Pompeo tweeted: "We aren't afraid of (Zarif) coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely. Are the facts of the (Khamenei) regime so bad he cannot let me do the same thing in Tehran?" the secretary of state said, referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "What if his people heard the truth, unfiltered, unabridged?"

U.S.-Iranian tensions have soared in recent months.