x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blocs tell Iran to end dispute with UAE over Gulf islands

Arab League leaders and 14 Pacific states issue an unprecedented joint declaration pledging to step up diplomatic co-operation.

ABU DHABI // Iran was urged to end its occuption of Emirati islands by leaders of the Arab League and a bloc representing 14 Pacific Island states after they held their first meeting yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

Political leaders and foreign ministers from the two groups later issued a joint statement in which they pledged their support to pan-Arab positions, including the need to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through Arab and international peace initiatives. The two blocs urged Iran to respond to initiatives to end its occupation of the three Emirati islands through direct talks or the International Court of Justice.

The Arab nations pledged to help the developing nations overcome the shockwaves of the global financial crisis through providing "logistical and technical support". The Pacific Small Islands Developing States group represents the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Most of the island nations gained their independence in the 1960s. Rising sea levels due to global warming mean the nations are among the most vulnerable in the world to climate change.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, said the Emirates has already funded a US$50million (Dh183.6m) aid programme that would cover what he described as basic needs for the 14 small nations. These would including projects to improve the area's fishery, infrastructure projects, and the ability to gather rainwater and conserve energy, he said. Increased use of renewable energy would be the best way for these nations to reduce their reliance on oil and gas, Sheikh Abdullah said.

He added that the International Renewable Energy Agency would help these nations with similar projects. "The UAE has a partnership programme with the Pacific Island States, and this partnership has now laid strong foundations, which were initiated by the Emirates," Sheikh Abdullah said. "The fact that these countries are small doesn't mean that their weight is small too. These countries give us a very important indicator about the impact of global warming."

Amr Musa, the Arab League's secretary general, said the pan-Arab organisation would continue to arrange similar meetings. The next meeting would be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in September, he said, adding that the Arab League was keen to develop strong relations with different economic blocs. He said the League was working with the EU to organise a summit between the two blocs. The EU and GCC established relations in 1988, and have been negotiating a free trade agreement.

No such relationship exists with the Arab League. mhabboush@thenational.ae