ABU DHABI, April 16, 2012 (AFP)
ABU DHABI, April 16, 2012 (AFP)
Tehran on Monday warned Arab states in the Gulf that things could become “very complicated” if they do not act cautiously over a simmering islands dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made the declaration to Iran’s ISNA news agency on the eve of talks in Doha between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states over three tiny islands in the Gulf and claimed by both Iran and the UAE.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infuriated the UAE by visiting one of them, Abu Musa, on April 11 and asserting in a speech that historical records proved “the Persian Gulf is Persian,” as state media called his trip a purely “domestic issue.
Abu Dhabi recalled its ambassador to Tehran and lodged a protest to the United Nations over the visit, stressing that the decades-old territorial dispute should be resolved in negotiations or at the International Court of Justice.
On Monday, it also summoned Iran’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi to complain.
But Salehi said that although Iran wanted good relations with the UAE and was willing to hold discussions, “our rule over the islands is not negotiable, and Iran’s sovereignty over the islands is certain and on the record.”
He added: “We hope that the other sides act with patience, perseverance, insight and prudence regarding the misunderstandings that could arise, or else issues will become very complicated.”
Salehi portrayed the reignited row as a “misunderstanding” that could be resolved.
But media, several politicians and clerics in Iran were scathing of the UAE’s protest, highlighting the widely held belief in the Islamic republic that the islands always belonged to their country.
Iran Daily, a government newspaper that publishes in English, wrote in an editorial that Abu Musa “belongs to Iran having more than 7,000 years of Iranian history and culture.”
It went on to declare that that was “a history hundreds of times older than newly-established sheikhdoms which until a short period ago were nothing but small tribal communities … permitting them to have a short stay on these islands to escape the hot desert weather and be able to graze their sheep in Abu Musa.”
Arabs going to the islands were considered “miserable peasants” and “poor servants” by the Iranian monarchs, Iran Daily added.
The newspaper also criticized Britain, which it said “cut out many Iranian territories” and made them stand-alone nations on the southern side of the Gulf.
It said that Iran “did not have any policies to demand the return of what belonged to Iran” but it will not accept “giving away even an iota of Iranian land.”
Iran, then under the rule of the Western-backed shah, gained control of the islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb in 1971, as Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.
Abu Musa, the only inhabited island of the three, was placed under joint administration in a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.
Abu Dhabi says the Iranians have since taken over the entire island, which controls access to the oil-rich Gulf, and have installed an airport and military base on Abu Musa.