Iran plays a regional bully role and meddles in Arab affairs, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said.
Dr Anwar Gargash said in a press conference that investigations were underway following the recent oil tanker attacks off the coast of the Emirates.
The ambassador to the United Nations for Iran has denied his country's involvement in the attack, which left four cargo ships damaged.
The UAE says that four commercial vessels were sabotaged, two of them Saudi oil tankers, in the incident which took place near Fujairah. He added that the conclusions were expected in a matter of days.
In an interview to Euronews, the minister also talked about the recent US deployment in the Gulf, the latest developments in war-torn Yemen and the UAE-Saudi aid package to Sudan.
Recent attacks in UAE waters
With regards to apportioning blame for the recent attacks that targeted two Saudi oil tankers in UAE waters on Monday (May 13), the minister said that he preferred not to speculate, at what he called a “sensitive period”.
The attacks happened amidst heightened political tensions between the US and Iran.
“What we need to look at is de-escalating,” he said, “We need to look at the current situation with a lot of wisdom and prudence.”
Dr Gargash added that the findings of an investigation into the incident were expected to be released “in the next couple of days”.
The UAE’s maritime harbour — where the attacks took place — is one of the world’s largest storage hubs. Lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz, it’s a critical 33-kilometre water passage linking the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea, where a fifth of the world’s oil passes through to link Middle East exporters to Europe, Asia, and other continents.
Instability in this passageway affects commodity markets globally.
In that respect, Dr Gargash said that whilst a feeling of “unease” in the markets was to be expected he added that, “these markets understand that the Gulf has had more than its share of turbulence - they have seen it before".
He went on to say that the UAE would use “politics as a main mechanism” to maintain economic stability.
'US doesn't want war'
Following reports that the United States has recently evacuated its diplomatic missions in Iraq and deployed additional forces to the Gulf, the minister believes that the move is a measured response to Iranian actions.
“Nobody wants war,” he said. “But we have to also be very clear, we are where we are today, mainly because of Iranian behaviour.
“This is an accumulation of Iranian behaviour in the region, of playing the role of the bully, of interfering in Arab affairs — of not admitting and acknowledging that it is their behaviour that has led to some of the most biting sanctions that they are suffering from.”
Looking ahead, Dr Gargash said that whilst the UAE could count on its US allies, it aimed to remain objective and to rely on diplomatic negotiations.
“We don't want to test our capabilities, and we don't want to test our network of friends, but we are assured of them,” he said. “But clearly, I think there's a lot that we can do through diplomacy, there’s a lot that we can do through common sense and we will do that as we have done navigating a very difficult region for a long time.”
Houthi rebels have recently pulled out of key ports in Yemen, according to the UN. The move comes after the signing of the Stockholm Agreement last December, which is seen as the first key step towards a peaceful settlement.
Dr Gargash reinstated the UAE’s “full support” of the agreement. He added that although the situation was “imperfect”, other options would be “dire”.
The minister went on to say that he hoped the conflict would soon come to an end, but he remained sceptical that the Houthis may hinder the process.
“It is time for us to turn the page in Yemen, it is time for us to start the political process, but again the Houthis are not helping politically,” he said, “We think it is essential that the Houthis pull out from the ports doesn't become a farce, or a ploy by a snapback, or anything like that.”
Following political instability in Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia announced a $3 billion dollar aid package to the country.
Dr Gargash said that the intention was to provide support in a “very, very difficult situation”.
“Our main aim is the stability of the neighbourhood because we live in this neighbourhood,” he said, “So the more peaceful, more stable it is, we also gain from that stability.”
Maintaining regional stability
Dr Gargash went on to summarise the country’s foreign and domestic policy.
“The number one rule is the necessity for stability in the region,” he said, “The number two rule is that after a very turbulent Arab Spring, the transition has to be peaceful. We need to maintain and support the institutions of states because once these are lost they are very difficult to recreate.
“We have seen many cases where basically the fundamentals of a functioning state are lost and it's chaos for a decade or two. This is very difficult in various areas in the Arab world, so I think that this is fundamentally where we are working,” he concluded.