Last updated: 28 June, 2012

Iran condemns Washington for backing UAE over disputed Gulf islands

Tehran on Thursday condemned the United States for backing the United Arab Emirates in its dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands, dubbing it “clear interference in Iran’s domestic affairs.”

“The three islands of Abu Musa and Lesser and Greater Tunb have always been and always will be an inseparable part of Iranian soil. Interference by a third country is aimed sowing division and tension in the region,” Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdolahian was quoted as saying by official media.

Iran “has always maintained that it is ready for constructive talks with all countries, including the Emirates, for boosting ties and cooperation,” he added.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama and UAE deputy armed forces commander Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan issued a joint call for a peaceful resolution of the status of the three islands in the Gulf whose ownership is fiercely disputed by Tehran and the UAE.

The United States “strongly supports the UAE’s initiative to resolve the issue through direct negotiations, the International Court of Justice, or another appropriate international forum,” the statement said.

The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards made a pointed visit to the islands late May. That was seen as a provocation by the UAE, which claims the islands under the terms of a 1971 agreement signed when Britain ended its colonial-era reign over that part of the Gulf.

But Iran rejects any UAE claim to the islands, saying they have always been part of its territory and that it never renounced its ownership.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered the fury of the UAE and its allied Arab monarchies when he visited the islands in April to reinforce Tehran’s position.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called the trip “a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates over its three islands.”

Iran’s military has vowed to defend the islands. It maintains a permanent military base and airfield on Abu Musa, the biggest of the three and the only one to be inhabited.

The islands are at a strategic location in the oil-rich Gulf, permitting control over access to the waterway.