Iran tells UAE disputed islands are ‘ours forever’

Countries caught in diplomatic spat over sovereignty of three islands
Iran tells UAE disputed islands are ‘ours forever’
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan addresses the UN Assembly
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 03 Oct 2011 08:04 AM

Iranian authorities have hit back at UAE attempts to resolve
a ownership dispute over three islands claiming they “will remain [ours]
forever”.

Iran on Sanday denounced UAE claims of sovereignty over the
islands of Abu Musa, Greater and Lesser Tunbs and accused “foreign powers” of
pushing the Gulf state to renew its claims.

“This is an issue that was dictated on [the foreign
minister] by foreign powers who want the Middle East to always be mired in
conflict and tension,” Kazem Jalali, spokesperson for the Committee on National
Security and Foreign Policy of the Iranian Shura Council, said in a statement
to state-backed Fars News Agency.

The statement follows a UN Assembly address last week by the
UAE Foreign Minister urging Iran to resolve the dispute by direct negotiations
or via the UN International Court of Justice.

In a fresh moved aimed at resolving the row Sheikh Abdullah
Bin Zayed Al Nahyan called on Iran to defend the “illegitimate occupation of
these islands” in the International Court of Justice, or to agree to direct
bilateral negotiations.

“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,” said Sheikh Al Nahyan.

The UN address is an attempt to push the agenda into the
international headlines, said Theodore Karasik, director of research and
development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

“Here is an example of the UAE trying to gain international
recognition for the status of the islands because from their point of view they
are occupied,” he said.

“I think we’re entering the next chapter of the UAE seeking
to legally gain back these islands so this is meant to bring it back into the
press because it had faded a bit. It’s time to bring the issue back up again…so
this is why you see this push,” he said.

Iran is a significant trade partner for the UAE, with trade
volume between Iran and Dubai - which are separated by just 54km across the
Strait of Hormuz - estimated at $10bn a year.

But relations between the two countries have waned in the
wake of fresh United Nations sanctions, imposed last year, aimed at forcing
Iran to curtail its nuclear programme. Dubai’s Iranian Business Council in
December predicted trade between the UAE and Iran would decline by as much as
50 percent in 2010 to $6bn.

The president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai said
he didn’t think the latest push by UAE authorities would affect trade between
the two countries.

“These issues have been there for some time and has hasn’t
really affected business as far as we know for the past few years,” said Hamid
Reza Hamidi.

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