UAE: Dispute over Gulf Islands Blocks Normalization with Iran
Abu Dhabi's crown prince warned Saturday that Iran's occupation of three Emirati islands in the Gulf will hinder normalization between Tehran and the neighboring Gulf states. The statement came at a time Iran announced an imminent visit by its defense minister to Saudi Arabia.
"I think our brothers in the Gulf share our opinion that the issue of our three islands is the only thing hampering development of relations between Iran and the Gulf states," Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
"As for security agreements with Iran, we think that the question of our islands is an obstacle to any security arrangement in the region," Sheikh Khalifa said.
"We think that any security agreement in the Gulf, whether bilateral or collective, must be drawn up respecting the territorial sovereignty of countries and non-interference in their internal affairs," the prince added.
Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it is to hold talks with Iran on a bilateral cooperation accord to combat drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime.
While opposing the US military presence in the region, Iran Iranian officials have repeatedly called for a security pact between Tehran and its Gulf Arab neighbors.
Iran's minister of defense Ali Shamkhani, heading a high-ranking political and military delegation is to leave Tehran for Saudi Arabia in the next few days, Iranian News Agency (IRNA) reported Saturday. According to AFP, the visit will take place Sunday.
The minister’s visit is to take place upon the invitation of the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Civil Aviation Prince Sultan bin Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud, said the agency, which said talks will focus on issues “of mutual interest.”
This will be the first visit of a senior Iranian defense official to Saudi Arabia after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The world political and military experts term the visit as a turning point in Tehran-Riyadh relations, said the agency.
The United Arab Emirates has voiced fears of a rapprochement between the Gulf states and Iran, which holds the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa islands in southern Gulf waters claimed by Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khalifa called for a peaceful solution to the problem, "whether it be through direct dialogue, arbitration or taking the matter before the International Court of Justice, whose verdict we are ready to accept."
The prince also confirmed that the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Baghdad after a 10-year freeze did not represent a change in the country's policies and it would continue to urge Iraq to fully implement all UN Security Council resolutions.
"The reopening is not a change in any way of our position calling for the need for Iraq to implement international resolutions to put an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people," he said.
"Relations between our two peoples have never been cut and the embassy's reopening is a way of ensuring the needs of citizens from both countries and easing the transfer of humanitarian aid and commercial relations under the 'oil-for-food' program" – (Agencies)
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