KUWAIT: HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Salem Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, received on Wednesday visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during his official visit to Kuwait. During the meeting, both sides discussed the latest regional and international developments as well as the bilateral relations between Kuwait and Iran.

"The resolution of challenges with the collective participation of countries in the region is the best way to achieve the progress of nations and ensure security in the Persian Gulf," Amir-Abdollahian tweeted after the meeting. Iran’s top diplomat arrived in Kuwait from Muscat, where he held “constructive” talks with his Omani counterpart earlier on Wednesday, a day after Tehran held discussions in Doha on its nuclear program with Qatari and EU officials. Amir-Abdollahian is on a tour of the Gulf that will see the Iranian foreign minister also making a stop later in the United Arab Emirates.

On Wednesday, he met Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who said they discussed “continued consultations and cooperation” on issues of bilateral concern. “There is great consensus in the visions of the two states on a series of issues... that will contribute to stability, security and peace,” he said, quoted by the official Oman News Agency. Amir-Abdollahian, for his part, called the meeting “constructive” and praised the effective cooperation between the two sides, ONA said. Iran said last week it had been engaged in indirect negotiations with the United States through Oman, with nuclear issues, US sanctions and detainees on the agenda.

The following day, Iran’s nuclear negotiator said he had met with diplomats from three European countries in Abu Dhabi to discuss a number of issues including the country’s nuclear program. A landmark deal reached in 2015 between Iran and world powers was designed to prevent Tehran from secretly developing a nuclear bomb, a goal the Islamic republic has always denied. The United States under then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, before Iran began backing away from its own commitments, including by stepping up its enrichment of uranium.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has sought to revive the deal, but the process has stalled in on-off talks since 2021. In recent weeks, the two sworn enemies have denied media reports that they were close to reaching an interim deal to replace the 2015 accord. In Doha on Tuesday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, held talks with the European Union’s Iran nuclear talks coordinator Enrique Mora. “I had a serious and constructive meeting with Enrique Mora in Doha,” he said on social media on Wednesday. “We discussed and exchanged opinions on a range of issues, including negotiations to lift sanctions.”

EU spokesperson Peter Stano confirmed the meeting, saying the bloc was “keeping diplomatic channels open, including through this meeting in Doha, to address all issues of concern with Iran”. Amir-Abdollahian also discussed “developments in the nuclear agreement” with his Qatari counterpart, according to the official Qatar News Agency. Since the start of the year, Iran has intensified its diplomatic activity, engaging with friends and foes alike as it seeks to reduce its isolation, improve its economy and project strength.

Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi has led the way, swinging through China, Syria and Venezuela, hosting Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, and reaching out to other long-time regional rivals such as Egypt. Sanam Vakil, director of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program, said Iran was seeking to show it can overcome its adversaries. Iran is “looking to show that despite sanctions and domestic protests it continues to weather the storm by bolstering stronger international economic and foreign ties”, she said.

“These links... aim to increase economic connectivity and boost internal morale.” At stake are “agreements focused on easing tensions through the de-escalation of Iran’s nuclear program and release of US prisoners” held in Iran, said Diako Hosseini, a Tehran-based foreign policy analyst. Iran hopes such agreements would allow it to revive an economy battered by sanctions, rampant inflation and record depreciation of the rial against the dollar. Any indication of a thaw in US-Iran relations would be viewed favorably by Arab countries, especially those of the Gulf, which are seeking to ease tensions fueled in recent years by the conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

This desire was one of the main drivers of the China-brokered normalization of relations in March between Iran and Saudi Arabia after seven years of hostility. Since then, Iran has sought to cement or restore ties with other Arab countries including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Tehran says its “policy of openness” has contributed to a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East, even if the risk of an armed confrontation is still high with the Zionist entity, the Islamic republic’s archenemy.

“Only the enemies of Islam, led by the Zionist regime, are upset by the progress of cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Raisi said last week when he received the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan. At the same time, a certain detente is emerging with European countries after months of simmering tensions since nationwide protests erupted in Iran over the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

In recent weeks, Iran has released six Europeans it was holding and has held nuclear talks with Britain, France and Germany, the three European signatories to the landmark 2015 agreement. But a bone of contention remains between Iran and Western countries that accuse Tehran of supplying drones to Moscow and helping it build a factory to manufacture them, which the Islamic republic denies. Iran is also courting China, which Raisi visited in February for the first such trip in 20 years. Tehran expects to attract significant Chinese investment, the level of which remains low despite promises made in recent years.

Presenting itself as one of the pillars of the “new world order”, the Islamic republic also wants to extend its influence into Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America. Following a trip to Indonesia, Raisi last week visited Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba — where he denounced “the imperialist powers” led by the United States.

The analyst Hosseini believes Iran “is turning to countries that are not considered in the western bloc... to show that the West’s influence on Iran and its economy is not major”. Iran also hopes to be quickly accepted into two organizations that exclude Western countries: The BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which brings together China, Russia and several Central Asian countries. – Agencies