The days of estrangement between the United Arab Emirates and Iran could be numbered. In the midst of talks in Vienna on a new nuclear deal, a senior Emirati official has announced that his country will soon send a delegation to Tehran to try to improve ties with what has been a rival country in recent years. This would be an important step forward for both sides as, on the one hand, the UAE could strengthen its relations with another country, boosting its regional leadership, and on the other hand, it could help Iran normalise its ties with the Gulf states and begin a reconstruction of its external image.
Regarding the Emirati delegation's trip to Iran, Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE president, said he hopes "that it will be the sooner the better and that all our friends will know about it". The idea on both sides, he said, is to "turn a new page" in relations between the two countries. The UAE has already taken some steps to bring the two countries closer together, such as the telephone conversation between UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed and his Iranian counterpart Hosein Amir Amirabdollahian just a few weeks ago.
Bin Zayed and Amirabdollahian "discussed bilateral relations, areas of joint cooperation and ways to promote and enhance relations to achieve the interests of the two countries," according to the Emirati news agency, WAM. It was one of the preliminary steps towards further rapprochement of relations, which is expected to get a major boost from the visit of Emirati officials to Tehran. Gargash said that "there is a recognition by the Iranians that they need to rebuild bridges with the Gulf", adding that his country "is taking that positively".
This rapprochement does not mean that the UAE has forgotten the delicacy of relations with one of the most controversial and dangerous countries in the world. The Emirati official says that they are keeping a close eye on the moves being made by Ebrahim Raisi's government and the progress being made in the negotiations for the return of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It also said that they were not neglecting Saudi Arabia's moves on Iran, given the good relations between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
One of the reasons for the confrontation between Arabia and Iran is the conflict in Yemen, where the UAE supports the Saudis, despite having significantly reduced its military presence in Yemeni territory since 2019. This conflict, considered the biggest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations, has brought with it episodes of great tension and even direct attacks between Tehran and Riyadh, distancing the two administrations. However, it seems that the intention of the Iranians is to redirect their position and bring them closer to the Gulf countries, although when it comes to Raisi's people, one can hardly trust Iran's moves.