The UAE has renewed its call for Tehran to start talks to end the four-decade-old dispute over Iran's occupation of three Gulf islands. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said the Emirates wishes to resolve the dispute through direct talks or international arbitration, a proposal the UAE has made several times already. The UAE, backed by members of the international community and Arab world, has repeatedly called on Iran to enter into talks or international arbitration over Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which the Iranians have occupied since 1971.
"The Emirates wants to resolve the occupied islands problem with neighbouring Iran," Dr Gargash said on the sidelines of a meeting in Damascus of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. "Unfortunately, despite the passage of more than three decades, I cannot remember there having been any positive issues in that respect," he added in remarks published by the official state news agency WAM. In the early 1990s, Tehran started to bolster its presence on the island, moving weaponry and restricting access. In August last year, it set up two administrative offices on Abu Musa, drawing criticism from the UAE.
In March, Arab states renewed their backing of the UAE's right to the three islands with a resolution at the end of the Arab League summit in Qatar. UAE leaders, including the late Sheikh Zayed, the nation's founder, have on many occasions urged successive Iranian governments to end the dispute through talks or international arbitration. These calls, however, have been shunned by Iranian officials, who have refused to acknowledge the "dispute" and referred to it as a question of "misunderstanding".
Abu Musa, is located at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, which the US government's Energy Information Agency identifies as the world's most important oil "chokepoint". * With AFP