Last updated: 16 April, 2012

UAE says Gulf island spat threatens global security

The United Arab Emirates warned on Monday that a Gulf islands dispute with Iran threatens “international security.”

The UAE has summoned Iran’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi to denounce a visit last week by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to one of the three disputed islands, the official state news agency said on Monday.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan warned that if left unresolved the issue “could jeopardise international security and peace.”

“I request our Iranian brothers to ease the tension and return to the negotiating table with… a clear agenda,” Sheikh Abdullah told a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Qarqash, “summoned the Iranian ambassador… and handed him a letter of protest, denouncing” Ahmadinejad’s visit last Wednesday to Abu Musa, WAM reported.

Qarqash called the visit a “violation of UAE sovereignty.”

Tehran responded on Monday by warning Arab states in the Gulf that things could become “very complicated” if they do not act cautiously over the simmering islands dispute.

Oil kingpin Saudi Arabia also condemned Amhadinejad’s visit.

The Saudi cabinet, meeting in Riyadh on Monday, branded the trip a “violation of UAE sovereignty,” the official SPA news agency reported.

Abu Dhabi has recalled its ambassador to Tehran and lodged a protest with the United Nations over Ahmadinejad’s visit, stressing that the territorial dispute should be resolved in talks or at the International Court of Justice.

On Sunday, Sheikh Abdullah met ambassadors representing Security Council member states in Abu Dhabi to convey the “UAE’s condemnation of this provocative visit,” WAM said.

Tehran has insisted that Ahmadinejad’s trip, during which he said historical documents proved “the Persian Gulf is Persian,” was a purely “domestic issue.”

Foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states are to hold a special meeting in the Qatari capital on Tuesday to discuss the dispute.

Both Iran and the UAE claim territorial sovereignty over Abu Musa and two other islands in the southern Gulf.

Iran, then under the rule of the Western-backed shah, gained control in 1971 of the islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb, 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 control of the entire island which controls access to the oil-rich Gulf and have built an airport and military base there.