GCC chief criticises army chief over claims Gulf belongs to Iran

Country 'does not have right' to claim ownership, he says

epa02713935 The Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, chairs the 2nd ministerial joint meeting for strategic dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and China at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 02 May 2011. China and the GCC inaugurated their first round of strategic dialogue in June 2010 in Beijing. The meeting will focus on regional and international issues of joint interest as well as relations between the GCC and China.  EPA/ALI HAIDER *** Local Caption ***  02713935.jpg
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ABU DHABI // The secretary general of the GCC condemned claims yesterday by the Iranian army head of staff that the Arabian Gulf belonged to Iran.

At a second round of strategic dialogue, where officials from the GCC and China discussed security issues and ways to boost relations in the region, Dr Abullatif al Zayani said: "Iran does not have the right to claim that, as all it owns from the Gulf are its regional waters."

He said the Iranian comments showed ignorance of the region's history and Arab identity - as well as GCC policies.

"The irresponsible statements … will only lead to the spread of an atmosphere of distrust and tension in the region, which will not serve the relations between GCC and Iran," he said.

Iran was featured on the agenda at the meeting with Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, as the country's occupation of three UAE islands, its nuclear programme and progress on a free-trade agreement were discussed.

"We are very delighted with this session. China has always been a great partner for the GCC and we look forward to even further strengthening our relationship," the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"In the last decade, our trade has grown ten-fold to $100 billion (Dh367.2bn) and we look forward to another ten-fold in the next decade."

Both sides agreed to develop the memorandum of understanding on strategic dialogue between the GCC and China that was signed in Beijing in June 2010. A separate economic and investment agreement was signed in June 2004.

The official statement released at the end of the meeting called for specialists from both sides to convene as soon as possible to discuss implementing the agreements. Co-operation is expected in trade, investment, energy, culture, education and research, science, environment and health.

"Maintaining peace and stability in the region goes in accordance with the mutual benefit of the region and international community," the statement said. "Peace benefits everyone worldwide, since the region has an active strategic location, and important influence over peace and growth in the world."

The Chinese delegation also praised the GCC's efforts in trying to resolve the crisis in Yemen.

A third meeting will be held in 2012 in China.