ABU DHABI, Feb, 26 (Reuters) - President Shaikh Zaid bin Sultan Al Nahayan said yesterday the United Arab Emirates was determined to win back three strategic Gulf islands controlled by Iran.
In a speech to an annual meeting of Arab parliamentarians in Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Zaid also called on Arab states to make Iran understand that its ties with them were at risk if it did not agree to discuss the dispute with the UAE.
“We insist that our islands be returned to us and we will not rest so long as Iran refuses logic and peace,” Sheikh Zaid said in a speech read on his behalf by a member of the ruling presidential council.
“Arab efforts must be added to those of the UAE to make Iran realise that its Arab ties are in danger unless it listens to the logic of constructive dialogue or agrees to join the UAE under the umbrella of the International Court of Justice and agree to abide by any ruling issued by this court,”
Iran and the UAE are at odds over three small but strategic islands — Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs — located near key shipping lanes close to the mouth of the Gulf.
They are held by Iran but also claimed by the UAE.
The UAE has been pressuring its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to tell non-Arab Iran that an improvement in ties is conditional on its agreement to sit down to discuss the dispute.
Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have improved since moderate Iranian president Mohammad Khatami was elected in 1997. But the islands dispute has hindered further improvement in ties.
Iran says the islands are an integral part of its territory, but that it is ready to hold talks with the UAE to clear up what it calls any “misunderstandings”.
The Islamic republic has rejected any mediation or arbitration in the dispute and refused to recieve a GCC ministerial committee set up in 1999 to mediate a peaceful solution to the long-standing row.
Shaikh Zaid also called for crippling international sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait to be lifted. “There must be a solution for the Iraqi crisis...foremost of which the
lifting of sanctions (on Baghdad) and to stand by our Iraqi brethren,” Sheikh Zaid told the Arab parliamentarians.
He also called for sanctions against Libya to be lifted. The sanctions were suspended two years ago after the north-African Arab state handed over two suspects in a 1988 airliner bombing to trial in a Scottish court in the Netherlands. But the United States maintains its own commercial and financial sanctions against Libya and along with Britain still opposes full lifting of the UN measures.