DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran was to revive maritime security talks on Tuesday with traditional foe the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an apparent bid to calm tensions in the Gulf, although a Gulf official described the discussions as routine and technical.
The talks follow weeks of heightened political friction around the strategic waterway stemming from hostility between Tehran and Washington, the main Western ally of Gulf Arab states long wary of the Islamic Republic.
The discussions had been off since 2013, but the UAE is widely seen in the region as wanting to guard its reputation as a safe business hub.
“The 6th 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.
Without giving a source, ISNA said issues from shared borders, visits by citizens of each nation, illegal entries, and maritime connections would be discussed.
A Gulf official said the meeting was not related to tensions in the region.
“It is a technical meeting that was organized a long time ago to discuss routine maritime issues,” the official told Reuters.
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 United Arab Emirates.
“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 waterway if the United States tried to strangle its economy.
(Story refiled to remove extraneous word ‘between’, paragraph 2)
Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean