Iran has made another high-profile approach to Gulf States, seeking political leverage against Saudi Arabia and assistance for its economic recovery.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif travelled to Qatar on Wednesday for talks with the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani.
Iranian State media alluded to the core issues for Tehran, referring to “the promotion of trade and economic ties” and an exchange of “views on regional conflicts and common concerns”. It spoke of discussions in “banking and joint investment”.
Since the start of the year, Iran has stepped up its summits with Gulf leaders, including those of Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, both in Tehran and on the Arabian Peninsula.
Tehran’s relations with Saudi Arabia continue to be fraught, more than 13 months after Riyadh cut diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic. A limited attempt at rapprochement, through talks on the return of Iranian pilgrims to the hajj in Mecca, appears to have been stalled, and Zarif said on Sunday that there had been “no positive behavior” from the Saudis.
The two countries continue to vie for regional influence, and are on opposite sides of crises such as the Syrian conflict and the Yemeni civil war.
Iran is also hoping to restore the vital position of the Gulf States for its trade and investment, limited since 2012 by US and European sanctions. The July 2015 nuclear deal and its implementation have offered some prospect for recovery, but this continues to be slow amid continuing US-led restrictions.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Wednesday