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Iran's Rouhani wants 'neighbourly relations' with Arabian Gulf

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech during a signing ceremony after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev (not seen) in Baku, Azerbaijan, August 8, 2016
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech during a signing ceremony after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev (not seen) in Baku, Azerbaijan, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Alexander Nemenov/Pool

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country sought good relations with its Gulf Arab neighbours as he began a one-day trip to Oman and Kuwait today, his first since taking power in 2013.

Relations between predominantly Shia Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab countries of the Arabian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, remain strained over their support for opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, as well as Iranian riling of Shia minorities in Arab countries.

"The basis of the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is always good neighbourly relations with neighbours and the security of the [Arabian] Gulf," Rouhani said, according to the state-owned IRNA.

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Rouhani also said there should be greater unity between Shias and Sunnis, saying they had "coexisted side by side peacefully for hundreds of years", IRNA reported.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after protesters torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates recalled their envoys in a show of solidarity with Riyadh, but Oman only expressed regret over the attack, highlighting its better ties.

Iran has been accused of being directly involved in agitating against the Bahraini government by encouraging a Shia uprising against the authorities. The aborted revolution was crushed by a military intervention led by regional Gulf power Saudi Arabia.

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The Saudis have also long complained of Iranian meddling in their affairs, first by supporting Shia clerics in the monarchy's Eastern province against Riyadh, and also by arming, training and funding Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthi rocket attacks have even been launched against key Islamic religious sites, including Makkah, Islam's holiest city.

Kuwait's foreign minister made a rare visit to Tehran in late January and called for frank dialogue between Iran and its regional neighbours.

The Iranian president is due to meet Oman's Sultan Qaboos in Muscat today before travelling on to Kuwait on the invitation of its ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Sabah, Rouhani's deputy chief of staff for communications, Parviz Esmaeili, was quoted as saying on Monday by Iranian state-run Press TV.

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BahrainIranKuwaitMiddle EastNewsOmanSaudi ArabiaUAE
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