DUBAI – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman
embarked on a rare tour of the Persian Gulf region to strengthen its position with neighboring allies and reach consensus on the threat posed by rival Iran while world powers hold talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Prince Mohammed, the Saudi de facto ruler, arrived in Oman on Monday for talks with the country’s ruler. For the first time since Riyadh and its regional allies settled a dispute with Doha earlier this year, his trip includes stops in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.
The trips come after talks in Vienna to save the Nuclear deal between Iran, the US and other world powers that stalled last week. The Gulf States are not eager for a military confrontation with Tehran, but fear that Iran’s support for armed groups throughout the region and its deployment of drones and ballistic missiles will endanger their security even if the world powers come to an agreement.
« One of the issues that will be discussed is how to effectively address the persistent threat from Iran, » said a senior Saudi official.
Yemen and other issues such as investment, food security and trade are also, according to Gulf officials will be discussed before a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the six Gulf States are members, in Riyadh later this month.
Saudi Arabia is fighting to end the war in Yemen, where it is leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in 2015, to prop up the internationally recognized government after Houthi rebels allied with Iran hit the capital had conquered. It seeks to ensure support from Gulf allies as the Houthis break new ground, including the strategically important oil-rich city of Marib near the Saudi border.
The US has encouraged its Gulf partners on key issues such as Iran, the face of concern in the region that Washington is withdrawing to focus on China has gained renewed urgency to develop a united front. But the Arab monarchies have found it difficult to come together in the face of differing national interests. While Iran and Saudi Arabia are rivals, Tehran has close business ties with the United Arab Emirates. and shares the world’s largest gas field with Qatar. The less powerful Kuwait and Oman have long tried to stay out of conflicts, which has also enabled them to mediate in regional disputes.
Separately, the national security advisor of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al Nahyan, met , on Monday in Tehran with President
the senior Emirati official who has visited the Islamic Republic publicly for eight years. This follows the meeting between the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan last week in Ankara, as the United Arab Emirates. tries to de-escalate tensions with regional rivals.
Sheikh Tahnoun invited Raisi to visit Abu Dhabi to open a new chapter in relations between the countries, Iranian state television reported. The state-run Emirates news agency said it had exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.
The Tehran trip « is a serious attempt to engage Iran and reach the new government in Tehran, » said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent Emirati political scientist. « But it will not change the fact that Iran remains the constant threat to security in the Gulf. »
Prince Mohammed’s golf tour is the Saudi head of state’s first major trip abroad since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to a short trip to Egypt, he has mostly holed up in a palace on the grounds of a futuristic city in northwestern Saudi Arabia or on his nearby yacht in the Red Sea.
He has also not visited the USA or Europe since 2018 when the murder of regime-critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi by government officials led some Western governments to avoid him. French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit on Saturday marked the first trip by a great Western leader to the kingdom since the assassination, the order of which the prince has denied. On Sunday, at the start of his high profile week, Prince Mohammed attended a Formula 1 race in the coastal city of Jeddah, which featured stars including Justin Bieber.
A golf official with knowledge of Prince Mohammed’s tour called it » to make a statement ”on the regional leadership of Saudi Arabia. A unified stance towards Iran would be on the table, the official noted.
Shortly before Prince Mohammed’s visit to Qatar on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan will also visit the country to discuss Turkey’s relationship with the Gulf, so Qatari officials. « Both Erdogan and MBS have told the Qatari emir that they have stronger ties and want to restore trade, » said a senior Qatari adviser.
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