Authorities in the UAE and Iran have reached a tentative agreement to end a long-running dispute over three islands in the Gulf, sources claimed.
According to Defense News, officials in both countries have been engaged in secretive talks during the past six months, with Oman providing mediation. Islands Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs are located in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping channels, and the disagreement has been a sticking point between the two regional powers.
Under the accord, sovereignty over two of the three uninhabited islands will be handed over to the UAE, while a deal for Abu Musa will be finalised at a later date.
“A deal has been reached and finalised on the Greater and Lesser Tunbs,” the source told Defense News. “For now, two of the three islands are to return to the UAE while the final agreement for Abu Musa is being ironed out.”
“Iran will retain the sea bed rights around the three islands while the UAE will hold sovereignty over the land,” they continued. “Oman will grant Iran a strategic location on Ras Musandam mountain, which is a very strategic point overlooking the whole Gulf region.
“In return for Ras Musandam, Oman will receive free gas and oil from Iran once a pipeline is constructed within the coming two years,” the source added.
The agreement was reached on December 24 after the talks were given the green light from the US, whose strategic interests in the area include its Fifth Fleet, located in Bahrain.
Iran, then ruled by the Western-backed Shah, gained control of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa in 1971, just before the UAE's status as a protectorate of the UK ended and the Gulf state became independent.
The three islands dominate the approach to the Strait of Hormuz, through which around one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes.
Both countries have staked claims to the three islands.