Kuwait to deliver message to Iran on dialogue with Gulf Arab states


 Reuters International

DOHA (Reuters) - Kuwait's foreign minister will make a rare visit to Tehran on Wednesday to deliver a message to President Hassan Rouhani on a "basis of dialogue" between Gulf Arab states and arch-rival Iran, Kuwait's state news agency reported.

The visit comes days after Rouhani said countries including Kuwait had offered to mediate in the escalating feud between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni power Saudi Arabia.

Kuwaiti news agency KUNA quoted Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah as saying relations between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of six Arab states "must be based on the UN Charter and principles of international law".

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the dominant member of the GCC, back opposite sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Riyadh and some other members of the GCC accuse Tehran of using sectarianism to interfere in Arab countries and build its own sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Iran, set to benefit from an easing of international sanctions after its nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, denies interfering in Arab countries.

Tensions in the Gulf have reached levels unseen since the 1980s, when Iraq received Gulf Arab funding for its 1980-88 war against Iran in a pan-Arab effort to stem the influence of its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in January 2016 cut diplomatic relations with Iran and some other Gulf states recalled their ambassadors in solidarity with the oil-rich kingdom after its embassy in Iran was torched by protesters.

But long-standing trade links and shared access to oil and gas fields have stopped many Gulf states from shutting the door on Iran.

Kuwait, which has a sizeable Shi'ite Muslim minority, is seen as a potential mediator. When Kuwait's emir visited Iran in 2014 it was the first by a ruler of the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab state since the 1979 revolution.

"We are partners in the region and we have many common interests and possibilities," said Sabah, adding that dialogue would be for the benefit of both sides.

(Reporting by Tom Finn; editing by Andrew Roche)

Reuters

 Reuters International