UAE steps in as new deal-maker between Iran and Europe
At the end of a three-day diplomatic tour to four neighbouring Arab countries, Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the visits were made to boost bilateral ties, however, analysts in Iran suggested that practical matters such as transferring Iran's frozen assets to Qatari banks and potential mediations by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were at stake.
Iranian and Western sources said that according to this agreement, the US would release parts of Tehran's frozen assets and no longer seizes the Islamic Republic's oil tankers in return for the freedom of American prisoners in Iran and the halt of over 60 per cent uranium enrichment.
The news was followed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's greenlight for an agreement which would not "roll back the achievements in the nuclear program". After the 2018 US unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear pact, Khamenei, with the final saying on all matters in Iran, had always expressed disagreement with new negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program.
Since then, Oman and Qatar have been vital in hosting direct negotiations between Iran and European countries and indirect talks between Tehran and Washington.
On his latest tour, Amir-Abdollahian first visited these two countries and then held meetings with high-ranking politicians in Kuwait, a country he visited for the first time since the hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office in 2021.
His final stop was in the UAE, which has recently joined the countries restoring full political ties with Iran.
A former Iranian diplomat Abdol Reza Faraji Rad, hinted that Amir-Abdollahian's visit to the UAE was in response to an attempt by the European countries to open a negotiation channel with the UAE mediation.
"European don't want US-Iran negotiations overshadowed their political talks with Tehran, so they sought a third country, other than Oman and Qatar, to host their meetings with an Iranian delegation," he said.
Faraji Rad added that Iran was delighted to hold talks in the UAE as a means to boost ties with this Gulf country. After the 2016 raids on Saudi Arabia's diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad, Abu Dhabi reduced its political relations with Tehran.
"Due to the internal rivalry between the gulf countries, the UAE is also happy to play a role in talks between Iran and the West," he concluded.
During these visits, apart from Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani and foreign minister's top advisor Mojtaba Bani Asadzadeh, a member of Iran's parliament foreign policy committee Ebrahim Rezaei also accompanied Amir-Abdollahian.
The presence of these politicians in the Iranian delegation fueled speculation about the reasons behind Iran's top diplomat visits and the separate talks that the European countries and the US have held about Iran's nuclear programme.
However, the Iranian delegation in those talks was led by Ali Bagher Kani, a foreign minister deputy with family ties with Khamenei. Bagheri Kani has his doctrine for encountering Western powers, and his influence in giving direction to Iran's foreign ministry is more robust than Amir-Abdollahian.
All these developments convinced Iranian international affairs experts that after Baghari Kani reached preliminary agreements with European powers and the US, Amir-Abdullahi embarked on a journey to Oman and Qatar to negotiate the practical matters related to the freedom of prisoners in Iran and the release of Iran's frozen assets.