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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and HH the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony for the Amir upon his arrival in Tehran on June 1. HH the Amir started a landmark visit to Tehran focused on mending fences between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled countries in the Gulf

TEHRAN, June 1, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Sunday started a landmark visit to Tehran focused on mending fences between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled monarchies in the Gulf. The two-day visit comes amid a thaw in ties between Tehran and six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since the election of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013.

In greeting HH the Amir, Rouhani, quoted on the presidency website, said the trip would mark “a decisive turning point” and that the two states had “close views on political, regional and international issues”. The visit would “benefit both countries”, the Amir was quoted as saying. Sheikh Sabah, on his first visit to Tehran as head of state, flew in at the head of a highlevel delegation including the foreign, oil, finance, commerce and industry ministers. “Our ties with Kuwait are very important to us and we hope this trip would be a new chapter to boost cooperation,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, quoted by state news agency IRNA. The visit will also focus on controversial regional issues, including Iran’s military involvement in Syria, the situation in Iraq and Egypt, and the Middle East peace process, Kuwaiti officials said.

Relations between Iran and the Gulf, namely signs of rapprochement between regional power brokers Saudi Arabia and Iran, will also be discussed during the visit, Kuwaiti foreign ministry under-secretary Khaled al-Jarallah told Al- Hayat newspaper. He said Kuwait, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the GCC — which also includes Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Amirates (UAE) — has balanced links with Tehran and is willing to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran. Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners are deeply suspicious of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and wary of the talks under way between Tehran and Western powers aimed at striking a long-term compromise.

Riyadh is also at odds with Iran over the Syria war, in which Tehran backs the government and Saudi Arabia the rebels, as well as its involvement in Iraq, Bahrain and other countries in the region. Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal invited his Iranian counterpart Zarif to visit Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has also invited Iran to attend a two-day meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that opens on June 18 in Jeddah, with Tehran welcoming the invite as a “friendly” gesture. But Zarif told IRNA on Sunday that he will not be able to attend because the timing coincides with the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, scheduled for June 16-20 in Vienna. Rouhani on Sunday welcomed His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah.

A formal ceremony was held and both leaders reviewed the guard of honor while national anthems of Iran and Kuwait were played. They then began official talks on ways and means of promoting and reinforcing distinguished relations between both friendly countries in various fields for the common interest of the two sides. They also discussed several issues and affairs of mutual concern and the latest regional and international developments.

Talks between His Highness the Amir and the Iranian president were held in a friendly and fraternal atmosphere that reflected a spirit of understanding and friendship between Kuwait and Iran as well as mutual willingness to consolidate existing cooperation in all domains. In the presence of His Highness the Amir and the Iranian president, several bilateral cooperative agreements were inked here on Sunday. Security and air service cooperation deals were signed by Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. A customs cooperation agreement was inked by Kuwaiti Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh and Iranian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Ali Tayeb- Nia.

A memo of understanding pertinent to youth and sports was signed by Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al- Hamad Al-Sabah and Iranian Minister of Youth and Sports Mohammad Goudarzi. First Deputy Premier and Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdulmohsen Al-Mudej and Iranian Vice President and Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Masud Soltanifar inked a memo of understanding in the tourist field.

Another memo of understanding was signed on environmental protection and sustainable development by Minister of Oil and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al-Omair and Iranian Vice President and Head of Environmental Protection Organization Masumeh Ebtekar. Al-Omair said that oil and gas formed a part of bilateral talks between His Highness the Amir and Iran’s president on Sunday.

As the countries are two of the biggest exporters of oil they can both “exchange expertise and coordinate in the field of the extraction, marketing and refining of oil,” Al-Omair, also Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs, told KUNA. Iran also benefits from large natural gas reserves, and the minister pointed to Kuwait’s need for Iranian gas which will be enabled by an agreement to start importing the commodity.

Asked about a memo of understanding signed between both sides, during the visit, on the protection of the environment and sustainable development, he highlighted that this was an international obligation and that there was a need for a regional integration of efforts on the matter. “The MoU that I signed today stems from our obligations to the marine environment and related issues like sustainable development and the atmosphere. “We believe that this cooperation will achieve a lot for us because there is much research neither Kuwait nor Iran can conduct alone,” he said.

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