Gulf Arab states called on Iran Saturday to resolve its territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates through dialogue, saying they were keen to strengthen relations with Tehran.
During their consultative summit in the Omani capital, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries "expressed the desire that the Iranian government cooperate to allow the (mediation) committee to realize its noble objective," GCC secretary-general Jamil al-Hujeilan said.
The leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE also reviewed a report on the efforts of the tripartite committee set up last July, which comprises the Saudi, Omani and Qatari foreign ministers.
The committee is scheduled to present its final report on the dispute at another GCC summit later this year.
The GCC leaders called for the committee to "continue its efforts" to broker a dialogue between the two parties, Hujeilan added.
Abu Dhabi claims the three Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which have been held by Tehran since 1971 and effectively control one of the world's major oil supply routes.
Iran has rejected the UAE's request that the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice, saying they are part of Iranian territory.
GCC leaders also expressed their desire to establish with Iran "solid relations based on mutual trust, good neighborliness, respect for each other's rights, and non-interference in others' affairs," Hujeilan said.
"The two parties can, in this way, work together in the interests of the entire region," he added.
Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, warned April 22 that Iran's occupation of three Emirati islands will hinder normalization between Tehran and its Gulf Arab neighbors, particularly over security questions.
In a press statement following his arrival, Sheikh Khalifa said the consultative meeting would reflect the GCC leaders' dedication to the principles that include the Council's policies of cooperation and coordination in ensuring security and prosperity of the peoples in the region, said Omani news agency (ONA).
GCC leaders should innovate and enhance new effective mechanisms appropriate for these globally changing conditions, said emir of Bahrain in a statement, adding that these conditions call for the immediate resolution of all pending issues, as well as boosting relations of brotherly cooperation.
"Economic relations play a major role for reaching solid and all-round AGCC integration, based on common economic interests of member countries," he said.
He expressed his appreciation for the progress in the field of security, which is the only guarantee for further stability and gains. In the end he expressed his hopes that this summit will enhance relations of cooperation so as to realize the noble ambitions of all the parties to this meeting.
"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," said Sheikh Khalifa.
"As for security agreements with Iran, we think that the question of our islands is an obstacle to any security arrangement in the region."
"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.
The GCC's largest member, Saudi Arabia, is considering a security cooperation agreement with Iran on fighting drug trafficking and crime, but the accord would not cover defense.
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, and said at a press conference Tuesday that Tehran is ready to solve the "misunderstanding" of Abu Musa, without mentioning the other two islands.
Like Saudi Arabia, most of the other countries of the Gulf are also in favor of improved relations with Iran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi is also due in Doha Monday where he is due to deliver an invitation to the Emir of Qatar to visit Tehran.
This rapprochement irritates the UAE, which considers that any strengthening of links between the GCC and Iran should be linked to a solution of the territorial conflict.
The Emirati newspaper Al-Khaleej, close to official circles, said Saturday "this summit is a chance to register Iran's stubbornness and provocations."
The GCC leaders also discussed the Middle East peace process and the situation in Iraq, Hujeilan said.
SAUDI CROWN PRINCE TO VISIT UAE ON SUNDAY
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah will visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday for talks with President Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayn, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia is a member of a tripartite GCC committee set up last year to try to help resolve a dispute between Iran and the UAE over three small but strategic Gulf islands controlled by Iran but also claimed by the UAE.
Ties between the GCC and Iran have been improving since moderate Iranian president Mohammad Khatami took office in 1997. But further improvement of relations had been hampered by the territorial dispute – (Agencies)
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