x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abdullah slams Ahmadinejad over 'provocative' trip

Foreign Minister says visit to Abu Musa is a 'flagrant violation' of UAE's sovereignty over its territories.

The Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed last night strongly condemned yesterday's visit by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the UAE's island of Abu Musa.

Abu Musa is one of three UAE islands - the other two being the Greater and Lesser Tunbs - occupied by Iran since 1971 during an invasion which led to the deaths of three UAE policemen.

Sheikh Abdullah blasted the provocative visit - the first trip by an Iranian head of state in more than 40 years - as a "flagrant violation" of the UAE sovereignty over its territories.

He added that it was a "set- back" to all attempts the UAE was making to find a peaceful settlement to the dispute.

The UAE has been trying to settle the dispute over the islands either through direct negotiations or resort to the International Court of Justice.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the Iranian president's surprise visit to Abu Musa "will not change the legal status of these islands which are part and parcel of the UAE national soil".

He denounced the timing of the visit, saying it comes at a time when the two countries agreed to "exert more joint efforts to turn off this page by reaching a solution to the issue".

He added the "provocative rhetoric of the Iranian president exposed Iran's false allegations regarding its keenness to establish good relations of neighbourhood and friendship with the UAE and countries of the region".

Sheikh Abdullah called on Iran to take measures and stances that strengthen confidence between countries and peoples of the region and refrain from such provocative measures which "muddy relations between the two countries and depress efforts aimed at finding a fair solution to the issue of the occupied three islands".

The Iranians landed on Abu Musa on November 30, 1971 and while there they also seized the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

According to the official Iranian news agency yesterday, after landing on the island, Mr Ahmadinejad stressed to, what it said was "a large crowd of people" the importance of security in the region and said the Gulf "should be safe for all".

Mr Ahmadinejad did not address the occupied islands.

The United States and Europe are pressing Iran to give up its nuclear programme by imposing economic sanctions. Iran has told its Gulf neighbours it would never forgive them if they "followed American plots".