President Hassan Rouhani has called for greater unity between Shia and Sunni Muslims during his first official visit to the Arab Gulf since being elected in 2013.
On a visit to Kuwait he was welcomed by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
Relations between predominantly Shia Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab countries of the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, remain strained over their support for opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.
While Iran has supported Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria and Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Arab Gulf states – namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – have supported the Syrian opposition as well as the Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s embattled government.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after protesters torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates recalled their envoys in a show of solidarity with Riyadh.
Earlier Rouhani was in Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos. Oman was prominent in helping mediate secrets US -Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later.
But Tehran’s January missile test has provoked new sanctions from the Trump administration and caused alarm in Israel at what has been called ‘blatant violations’ of the deal.
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