UAE urges Iran to take dispute over islands to UN court

Iran Materials 27 September 2011 11:58 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 27 /Trend/

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) today called on Iran to either enter into serious, direct talks over three islands which it says are an integral part of UAE territory or refer the issue to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN news center said.

"Since the illegitimate occupation of these islands [Abu Musa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs ] in 1971, the UAE has adopted a flexible diplomatic approach to resolve this matter through peaceful means, through direct bilateral negotiations, or by referring the matter to the International Court of Justice," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan told the General Assembly.

He said the actions taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran with the aim of changing the legal, physical and demographic situation of the islands are "null and void and have no legal effect whatsoever."

"Those Iranian actions also constitute a violation of international law, and the UN Charter. Therefore, the UAE demands of the Islamic Republic of Iran to enter into serious and direct negotiations between the two countries, or to refer the issue to the International Court of Justice in the light of its continuous illegal occupation of the three islands which are an integral part of the territorial sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates."

Later, Iran's representative said the islands were an "eternal part" of Iranian territory and were under Iranian sovereignty, and any attempts to qualify that were wrong.

The three Persian Gulf islands Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa have been a subject of dispute between Iran and the UAE. They were historically owned by Iran, but Britain's colonialism led to the islands temporarily falling under British control in the 1800s.

The islands were then returned to Iran on Nov.30 1971 through a legal process before the UAE was created and the Al Nahyan family assumed leadership.

A 1971 agreement stated that the Islands Greater and Lesser Tunbs near the strategic Hormuz Strait belong to the Iranian territory in the Persian Gulf, and Tehran and Abu Dhabi should implement joint control of Abu Musa. However, the UAE refuses to accept the agreement.

The PGCC statement in December 2010 claiming the three islands "are an integral part of the United Arab Emirates" heightened the tension and provoked strong reactions of the Iranian Foreign Ministry officials and parliamentarians.

The UAE has repeatedly made claims of sovereignty over these islands, but Iran has always described the claims as invalid and baseless, insisting that the islands are an inseparable part of Iran. Tehran said any ambiguity on the issue of the islands can be resolved through peaceful talks.

Despite the territorial dispute, the countries have strong economic ties. The UAE is the largest trading partner of Iran in the Persian Gulf. According to Arab media, about 400,000 Iranians reside in the UAE.

Edited by T.Konyayeva.