Iran and UAE trade barbs over Gulf island

Iran and UAE trade barbs over Gulf island

Iran and UAE trade barbs over Gulf island

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waving at supporters during a visit to island of Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf on April 11, 2012. ABACA photo

Tension in the Persian Gulf is heating up anew as neighbors Iran and the United Arab Emirates squabble over control over a disputed island between the two countries.

The UAE summoned Iran’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi yesterday to protest a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the disputed island of Abu Musa ahead of a meeting by the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that has been called to discuss the controversy between the two nations.

Tehran, in response, has warned Arab states in the Gulf that things could become “very complicated” if they do not act cautiously over the simmering dispute.

“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,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.

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 April 11 visit to the island of Abu Musa, Emirate news agency WAM reported. Qarqash called the president’s visit a “violation of UAE sovereignty.”

The move came after Abu Dhabi recalled its ambassador to Tehran and lodged a protest with the United Nations, stressing that the territorial dispute should be resolved in talks or at the International Court of Justice. The general secretary of the UAE Football Association also said it had canceled a friendly match with Iran this week due to rising tensions over the island. Tehran insisted that Ahmadinejad’s trip, during which he said that historical documents proved “the Persian Gulf as Persian,” was a purely “domestic issue.” The foreign ministers of the GCC are scheduled to hold a special meeting in Doha today to discuss the dispute, Reuters reported.

Salehi told Iran’s ISNA news agency that although Tehran 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.” Both countries claim Abu Musa and two other small islands, located near the key shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. Iran took control of the islands in 1971, shortly before the Gulf emirates gained full independence from Britain and formed the UAE. The islands are valued for their strategic position in the Strait of Hormuz and for their potential oil reserves.