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Iran claims to form naval alliance with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states

Iran’s navy commander Shahram Irani said on Saturday that his country and Saudi Arabia, as well as three other Gulf states, plan to form a naval alliance, Iranian media reported.

The alliance seeks to promote regional security by fostering cooperation among the participating countries, Irani said, without giving further details.

“The countries of the region have today realized that only cooperation with each other brings security to the area,” Irani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

He said the alliance would be formed soon and would cover the northern parts of the Indian Ocean.

The announcement came as a surprise, given the longstanding rivalry and hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have been locked in a proxy war in Yemen and have backed opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by Riyadh.

However, in recent months, there have been signs of restoring relations and opening of embassies between both countries.

The other Gulf states that Irani said would join the alliance are the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Qatar. All three are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The UAE and Bahrain have also normalized ties with Israel, Iran’s arch-enemy, under US-brokered deals last year. Qatar has maintained good relations with Iran despite a diplomatic rift with its GCC neighbors that was resolved earlier this year.

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