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Kuwait emir to visit Iran amid thaw in relations

By AFP - May 20,2014 - Last updated at May 20,2014

TEHRAN — Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah will travel to Iran on May 31 amid a recent thaw in Tehran’s relations with Gulf states, the Iranian foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Relations between Iran and the Gulf states have been frosty for years, with disagreements over the unrest in Bahrain and the conflict in Syria, before Hassan Rouhani was elected president of the Islamic republic last June.

“The visit [of the emir], which is upon the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani, will open a new chapter in relations of both countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters at a news briefing.

Afkham said “several agreements were expected to be signed”, without giving details.

In December last year, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif started a tour of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. But it ended without Zarif travelling to Iran’s main rival, Saudi Arabia.

Afkham said a visit to Saudi Arabia was on Zarif’s agenda.

“We have received the verbal invitation and measures are being taken to organise this trip,” she said.

“Iran and Saudi Arabia are two important countries in the region and their interaction is influential in the regional scope,” she added.

Last week, Riyadh’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said he had invited his Iranian counterpart to visit the kingdom.

Tehran welcomed the plan and stressed the need to boost relations after years of strained ties.

The two countries have been at odds over Syria’s civil war and the fallout from unrest in Bahrain.

In the Syrian conflict, majority Shiite Muslim Iran has backed the government of President Bashar Assad while Sunni Saudi Arabia has been a leading supporter of rebel forces.

Rouhani said after his election win last June he wanted to reach out to Gulf Arab governments as part of efforts to end his country’s international isolation.

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