Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) minister for foreign affairs, spoke with Becky Anderson on her show Connect The World on CNN about Iran and Yemen on Friday.
Below is a transcript of the interview.
Becky Anderson: There are those that worry that the UAE's intervention in Yemen provides, to a certain extent, an excuse for Iran exacerbating the threat from Iran, rather than reducing it, your response?
Anwar Gargash: Four years ago, it was the Houthi coup against the government of Yemen that lead to the Arab intervention in Yemen which we are part of. I think right now, we have a very hopeful sign in Yemen, imperfect, I have to admit, difficult, I have to admit. But again, we have a sign with the Stockholm Agreement, we have, for example, now the pull-out on Hodeidah. But here the onus is on the UN to ensure that this pull-out is genuine, that there will be no snap-back by the Houthis. I think it is in our common interest to move from a military phase of the confrontation, to a political phase. Now, it doesn't help when the Houthis will, right after agreeing to deal with the UN after four months of procrastinating to try and target civilian installations inside the region. So clearly, there is very little trust in what the Houthi has done. How can you, on one day attempt peace your way, and only four days later augment options of war.
AG: We are currently investigating, we have- we are collaborating with France, and the United States, and other friends are also offering their help. So, in a few days we should know what took place, what transpired. Clearly this is a very, very serious incident because it affects maritime commerce, and it comes also at a very very, what I would call a very sensitive and difficult period in the region. So clearly, we all have an interest at this time in deescalating and dealing with things in a mature, rational way.
BA: You’re talking about deescalating the rhetoric with Iran, at present
AG: Definitely I think this whole situation is difficult. We are where we are largely because of Iran behaviour. This is a behaviour that is not new to the region. This is a behaviour that has been basically compiling and clearly right now that – American sanctions on Iran are biting.
BA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he fundamentally doesn’t want a war with Iran but if provoked or if US interests in the Middle East are attacked, they would respond. Are you tonight urging Washington to act with a degree of caution and restraint? We are seeing an escalation – are you concerned?
AG: I think the onus is on Iran. The onus is on Iran. Iran is the government that is responsible for where we are today. Iranian behaviour over the last decade or two has led us to where we are today. There’s very little trust in the region. I don’t think the onus right now is mainly on Washington. I think it’s on Iran
BA: You talked a lot about what the Iranians should do. I wonder though what your position is so far as what Washington should do next. Certainly, the US and the Europeans at present are disunited. Does that worry you at present, and once again, I wonder if this urging of caution should not be to Washington.
AG: I think that the important thing is for the west to be more and more united and I think it concerns us when we see that the west is speaking with different approaches. I think all these countries that you have mentioned agree that there is a problem with Iran’s behaviour. I think the disagreement is over the approach. I think there is agreement across the board that Iran has been a disruptive force.