Sheikh Abdullah calls on international community to press Iran over occupation of UAE islands

The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, has appealed to the international community to push Iran to settle the dispute over its occupation of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs in the Arabian Gulf.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, called on the international community to push Iran to settle the dispute over its occupation of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. Ray Stubblebine / Reuters
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New York // The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, appealed to the international community on Sunday to push Iran to settle the dispute over its occupation of three strategically important islands in the Arabian Gulf either through direct negotiations with the UAE or in the International Court of Justice.

“My government expresses, once again, its regret regarding the continued Iranian occupation of our three islands: Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and demands the restoration of the UAE’s full sovereignty,” Sheikh Abdullah said during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday evening.

“We call upon the international community to urge Iran to respond to the repeated peaceful, sincere calls of the United Arab Emirates for a just settlement of this issue, either through direct, serious negotiations or by referral to the International Court of Justice, to settle this dispute in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter and the provisions of international law,” he said.

The foreign minister referred to Iran's friendlier stance towards the West in the past week, which culminated in a historic phone call between the newly elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama, the US president, on Friday. "Our country will sincerely build on such an approach in the interest of promoting security, stability and prosperity in the region," he said.

In response, Iran’s representative repeated his country’s claim to sovereignty over the islands and rejected all other claims.

On Friday Sheikh Abdullah met his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif to discuss the resolution of the dispute over the three islands that Iran currently occupies.

In his UN speech he also laid out the UAE's stance on Syria's use of chemical weapons and negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, the two regional issues that were the focus of this year's assembly.

He urged Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Engery Agency “in a transparent and clear manner … in order to avoid any negative consequences”.

The UN Security Council has passed a resolution urging Damascus to give up its chemical weapons stockpile but without the threat of enforcement if it fails to comply.

Sheikh Abdullah said: “All of you must be aware of the frustration we feel, and the majority of countries in the region feel, regarding the disabling of the United Nations mechanisms from acting against the aggressive acts of the Syrian regime against its people.

“We are deeply concerned about the growing serious implications of this conflict on Syria and the entire region, and we strongly condemn and reject all crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime, especially the chemical attack against Ghouta, Damascus, which killed thousands of civilians and children.

“We therefore call upon the international community to take all necessary measures to punish the Syrian regime.”

He also warned against foreign interference in Egypt’s internal affairs as its government tries to put the country back on the path to democracy.

“A stable and calm Egypt is the cornerstone of security and peace” in the region and beyond, Sheikh Abdullah said, and Egyptians want an inclusive political process “without the use of religion as a means of exclusion” or “sectarian hatred”.

The Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy said earlier that Cairo was “determined to fully implement” a transition from military rule back to democracy, with parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

Sheikh Abdullah underlined what he described as the UAE’s opposition to sectarianism and religious extremism in the region, and its “deep concern” at growing violent sectarian strife.

“In the Arab Gulf, we see how extremism and terrorism in the kingdom of Bahrain are seeking to sabotage security and stability and destroy a history of tolerance free from any sort of sectarianism,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah also met his counterparts from India and Malaysia, and from Ireland, where he will visit in November. The ministers discussed economic bilateral cooperation as well as the Syrian crisis and the situation in Egypt.