Rivals Iran and UAE to Hold Maritime Security Talks

Attacks on Saudi tankers and other vessels off the UAE coast in May increased tensions between the United States, Iran and Gulf Arab states

Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat of moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. July 21, 2019
Morteza Akhoondi,AP

Iran is reviving maritime security talks with officials from traditional foe the United Arab Emirates, amid worsening frictions between the Islamic Republic and the West in the Gulf region, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

The talks had been off since 2013, but the UAE wants to help calm the crisis and guard its reputation as a safe business hub.

"The sixth joint meeting will be held on Tuesday between a visiting seven-member delegation from the United Arab Emirates' coast guard and Iranian officials in Tehran," Iran's semi-official Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.

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Without giving a source, ISNA said issues to be discussed included shared borders, visits by citizens of each nation, illegal entries and maritime connections.

Officials in the UAE did not immediately respond to emailed requests by Reuters for comment.

Attacks on Saudi tankers and other vessels off the UAE coast in May increased tensions between the United States, Iran and Gulf Arab states. Washington and its Sunni Arab allies blamed Iran for the attacks, but Tehran denied that.

The UAE tempered its reaction to the attacks and has also scaled back its military presence in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is involved in a proxy war with Shi'ite Iran.

Iran has said it wants to improve relations with its regional Sunni rivals Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"Iran has always given extreme importance to the security of the Persian Gulf and it needs cooperation among all Persian Gulf states," said an Iranian official who asked not to be named.

Washington and Tehran are in a protracted standoff over Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and its regional influence.

Washington has imposed and tightened sanctions on Iran's oil exports after President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran's 2015 deal with major powers, under which Tehran got access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Tehran has repeatedly warned it would block exports through the Strait of Hormuz if the United States tried to strangle its economy.