Iran says virus coordination has improved its ties with UAE

Bloomberg – The spread of the coronavirus in the Middle East has brought “more reason and logic” to Iran’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.

Ties between Iran and the U.A.E., a close ally of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, had deteriorated significantly after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and the Gulf Arab country supported his decision to reimpose heavy sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is now the Middle East’s coronavirus epicenter and the U.A.E. was one of the first countries to send humanitarian aid shipments across the Persian Gulf to help the Iranian government deal with the scale of the outbreak.

Officials have repeatedly called on the U.S. to ease sanctions as it struggles to fight the disease. The crisis has forced Tehran to seek a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior health official warned that the disease was nowhere near containment in Tehran province, which has seen the most cases and deaths in the country.

Aireza Zali said the virus was “expanding” in the capital itself, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Iran has so far reported 3,739 deaths from the virus and total infections stand at 60,500.

Mousavi called for the unfreezing of millions of dollars worth of funds that Iran has overseas but are blocked by sanctions so they can be used to buy humanitarian supplies.

(Updates with comments about Tehran and frozen funds overseas)