It has been more than six years since the Arab Gulf state weakened ties with Iran after Saudi diplomatic missions were attacked by protesters.
The United Arab Emirates says its ambassador to Iran, Saif Mohammed Al Zaabi, would return to Tehran “in the coming days”, more than six years after the Arab Gulf state cut ties with Tehran.
The announcement on Sunday is in line with the UAE’s efforts to strengthen relations with Iran “to achieve the common interests of the two countries and the wider region,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The UAE cut ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Iran following the execution of prominent Shia scholar Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh.
Last week, foreign ministers of the Emirates and Iran had a phone call and discussed strengthening ties, UAE state media reported, where they discussed returning an ambassador to Tehran.
Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian discussed ways to “strengthen bilateral relations and areas of cooperation for the benefit of both countries,” the UAE state news agency WAM reported at the time.
After years of hostility on various sides of geopolitical rivalry, the UAE began reconnecting with Iran in 2019 following attacks in Gulf waters and on Saudi energy sites.
Last year, Saudi Arabia also took steps to improve ties with Iran at a time when the Arab Gulf states are closely monitoring efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran’s world powers.
While Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want to end Tehran’s movements in the region, they also want to contain tensions by focusing on economic priorities.
The UAE has business and trade ties with Iran dating back more than a century, with the emirate of Dubai long being one of Iran’s most important links to the outside world.
Earlier this month, fellow Gulf state Kuwait appointed its first ambassador to Iran since 2016.
The warming of diplomatic relations comes after the UAE normalized ties with Israel in September 2020. Three other Arab countries — Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — are also forging diplomatic relations with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the United States.
Even as the UAE normalized relations with Tehran’s regional enemy, Emirati officials have stepped up efforts to strengthen trade ties with Iran and mitigate the threat posed by its regional proxies.
Earlier this year, drone and missile strikes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen hit Abu Dhabi, damaging the UAE’s reputation as a safe haven in an unstable region.