Omani-Kuwaiti drive gets no traction in GCC
London - Efforts by Kuwait and Oman to kick-start dialogue with Iran to ease regional tensions seem to be going nowhere if recent statements by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials are any indication.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al- Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah travelled to Muscat to follow up on the recent visit by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to Oman and Kuwait in his first trip to GCC countries since becoming president in 2013.
The Kuwaiti emir’s meeting with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said centred on tensions between Iran and the GCC, focusing on resolving the almost 2-year war in Yemen. The GCC supports the internationally recognised government while the Islamic Republic has been arming and backing the Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who was once the target of an assassination plot by Tehran, dismissed its calls for dialogue. During the Munich security conference on February 18th, Jubeir said: “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
“It’s determined to upend the order in Middle East… Until and unless Iran changes its behaviour, it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this,” he said.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash also dismissed Iran’s calls for dialogue.
“[Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif calls for a regional dialogue in the Arabian Gulf. For the dialogue to be serious and away from propaganda, Tehran must stop interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours,” Gargash wrote on his official Twitter account.
Iran’s push for talks with GCC members coincided with tougher rhetoric from the Trump administration. US President Donald Trump has called the 2015 nuclear deal championed by the Obama administration “the worst deal ever negotiated” and pledged to nullify it or seek better terms. The United States placed additional sanctions on Iran after it test-launched a ballistic missile in January.
Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in January 2016 after mobs attacked its diplomatic missions in Iran over the execution of a radical Shia cleric.
Iran retaliated by banning its citizens from attending last year’s haj. However, on February 23rd, a Saudi official met with an Iranian delegation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, regarding preparations for the upcoming haj season.
The Saudi press agency said Mohammed Bentin, Saudi minister in charge of pilgrimages, and the Iranian delegation discussed “arrangements concerning participation of the Iranian faithful” in this year’s haj. Bentin said discussions covered “arrangements of reception of pilgrims and their housing and movement to provide services that contribute to performing their rituals with ease and contentment”.