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How Trump is prompting Iran to improve ties with its neighbors

Iran’s long-touted motto of prioritizing good ties with immediate neighbors is finally taking shape in apparent response to US-led pressure.
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: (L to R) Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, foreign minister of Oman, speaks with  Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari, the foreign minister of Iran, during the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017 in New York City. The most pressing issues facing the assembly this year include North Korea's nuclear ambitions, violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, and the debate over climate change. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Successive Iranian governments have underlined for decades that Iran’s top foreign policy priority is to have close relations with all immediate neighbors. However, in the past few years, deteriorating relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been a major impediment to a more constructive set of regional relations. From a trade and investment point of view, the hiccups in the Iran-UAE relationship — and especially Iran-Dubai ties — have been more damaging, especially as Dubai has played a key role as a regional hub for Iranian imports and financial transactions.

In the past two decades, the UAE has regularly been one of Iran’s top trading partners, mainly because during the sanctions years a considerable segment of the country’s imports were routed through Dubai. After the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, Dubai was fully equipped to take advantage of Iran’s growing external trade. Furthermore, Dubai has always been the first port of call for financial transactions between Iran and the rest of the world. Dubai had always benefited from its developed infrastructure, but also from hosting so many Arab families of Iranian descent — a fact that increased the efficiency of economic and cultural relations. Therefore, the recent political climate has been a major impediment to Iran’s international economic relations. Abu Dhabi’s insistence on reducing relations with Tehran has also been disappointing to many Dubai stakeholders.

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