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GCC to offer Iran ‘strategic dialogue’

Kuwait to convey Gulf countries’ call for talks based on non-interference, respect for sovereignty

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah will head to Iran on Wednesday with a message from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to start a strategic GCC-Iran dialogue.

“The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs will convey a GCC message to Iran,” Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al Jarallah told Kuwaiti daily Al Nahar without elaborating.

Al Jarallah confirmed that Kuwait was among the eight countries that had offered to mediate in the standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a news conference that officials from several countries, including Kuwait and Iraq, had talked to Iran about a mediation to end the escalating feud with Saudi Arabia.

Following the GCC summit in Bahrain last month, a Kuwaiti official said that Kuwait would hand over a message from the GCC countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to Iran.

The message would centre on starting a dialogue between the GCC and Iran based on the principles of good neighbourliness, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and respect for the sovereignty of other countries, the official said.

“These are international principles that we all share and we could use them as the premise to start a dialogue,” the official said.

The GCC countries have been calling Iran to put an end to its interference in the internal affairs of its neighbours and to change its policies, including supporting groups and militias designated as terrorist by the GCC such as Hezbollah that put security and stability in the region at risk. A Gulf political source this month was quoted by the London-based Al Arab daily saying that the message to be conveyed by Kuwait would specifically call for an end to the Iranian interference in the Gulf in order to help reach a political settlement of the crisis. The GCC also wants Tehran to stop its support to the rebels in Yemen and to put an end to its attempts to undermine the stability and unity of Bahrain.

On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi told reporters that “the Kuwaiti foreign minister is expected to visit Tehran, based on recent agreements between Iran and Kuwait”.

“The two countries have agreed on setting a date for the trip and the Kuwaiti officials are going to visit the Islamic republic within the next two to three days,” Qasimi said. “For long the Kuwaiti delegation has been expecting to travel to Iran and the issue was even in the spotlight of the Kuwaiti news circles. Even a date was set for the visit once, but for technical reasons the Kuwaitis preferred to change the schedule. We hope to have fruitful talks with the Kuwaiti officials during their stay in Tehran.”

Asked whether the visit by the Kuwaiti foreign minister was meant to explore mutual ties or was carrying a message from the GCC member countries, Qasimi answered that “bilateral ties and global and regional issues are the main topics of discussions”, the Islamic republic News Agency (Irna) reported.

“Sure enough, examining bilateral as well as regional and global issues are going to be the main topic of discussions,” he said. “However, it will remain to be seen whether the Kuwaiti delegation is going to covey any special message.”

The Gulf political source told Al Arab that passing a message to Iran is highly significant because it shows that the GCC countries, despite their anger with the Iranian policy in the region, do not want to shut the door to dialogue with Tehran and want to keep open the option of seeing the Iranian regime reconsider its approach in a way that helps promote relations.

The overture follows the election of US President Donald Trump, who vowed during his presidential campaign to rip up a landmark nuclear agreement reached between the Islamic republic and world powers, including the US, which the Gulf states feared would give Iran a free hand to continue its interference in Arab countries.

Relations between the GCC and Iran have been plummeting since 2011 and in January last year, Riyadh severed its diplomatic relations with Tehran following mob attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and on the General Consulate in the northern city of Mashhad. Bahrain also cut off diplomatic ties with Iran, while other GCC countries downgraded them.

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