UAE Condemns Iranian Scientist’s Slaying as Threat to Peace

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whose ties with Iran have been heavily strained over recent years, condemned last week’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist and urged countries in the region to avoid instability.

The denunciations are significant both because of the historically tense relations between Sunni Gulf Arab states and Shiite Iran, and the fact that Tehran has blamed the attack on Israel, which recently signed normalization deals with both the UAE and Bahrain.

Bahrain, which hasn’t had formal relations with Iran since 2016, denounced the assassination in a statement late Monday, and called on countries to reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The assassination represented a moment of unity across Arab states in the oil-rich waterway. Kuwait and Qatar, which maintain relations with Iran, also condemned the killing through their foreign ministries. Qatar, which is facing a years-long boycott by three of its Gulf neighbors including the UAE, called the attack “a clear violation of human rights” in a statement Saturday.

The UAE has recently taken a more conciliatory approach toward Iran after a string of explosions targeting oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last year threatened to touch off military confrontations in the oil-rich region.

The UAE “condemns the heinous assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which could further fuel conflict in the region,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement, urging all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

“The state of instability our region is currently going through, and the security challenges it faces, drive us all to work towards averting acts that could lead to escalation and eventually threaten the stability of the entire region,” the statement said.

Fakhrizadeh was killed near Tehran on Friday using a remote controlled device, an Iranian security official said Monday, contradicting earlier reports of an ambush. Iran said the attack bore the hallmarks of previous assaults by Israel, which had accused Fakhrizadeh of masterminding a secret nuclear bomb project. Israel hasn’t commented on either the attack or the allegations.

Iranian officials have vowed revenge, but at the same time signaled that they don’t want the assassination to derail potential negotiations with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, in a call with his Iranian counterpart, said the killing pours fuel on the fire “at a time the region and the international community are looking for ways to reduce tensions and return to the table of dialog and diplomacy.”

The UAE refused to blame Iran for attacks on oil tankers off its shores last year even as the U.S. said the Islamic Republic was almost certainly responsible. The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said at the time that his country would not be “baited” into an escalation.

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