x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Emirati and Italian officials discuss security co-operation

The speaker of the Federal National Council said yesterday that guarding the security of the Gulf region was vital to ensure worldwide stability.

ROME // The speaker of the Federal National Council said yesterday that guarding the security of the Gulf region was vital to ensure worldwide stability. "Security stability in the Gulf region boosts the flow of energy to Europe," Abdul Aziz al Ghurair told the speaker of Italy's Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini. Mr Ghurair and Mr Fini met in the Italian parliament building and reiterated their countries' concerns over Iran's nuclear programme and its occupation of three Emirati islands. They said both matters should continue to be handled through diplomacy, noting that both the UAE and Italy have healthy relations with Iran.

"The islands issue does not only concern the UAE, but it's also important to the EU and Italy," Mr Fini said. "Our real concern is the possibility of the use of nuclear energy to produce weapons. "Italy is Iran's first economic partner, but we share your concerns and fears. And we deal with them in the same manner that you do and ask them for transparency with regard to nuclear energy without pushing Iran to react violently."

The UAE has maintained its political and economic relationship with Iran, but urged the neighbouring country to avoid pursuing nuclear arms. The Government has also urged Iran many times to surrender the islands - Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa - it has captured since 1971. On Tuesday, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said the dispute over the islands should be resolved through mutual dialogue. He accused western powers of trying to use the dispute to raise tensions in the region to justify their military presence.

Mr Fini urged Iran to stop interfering in the affairs of its neighbouring countries, such as Iraq. "Iran is a very important country and has its influence in other countries and that is not positive in all cases," he said. Mr Ghurair and Mr Fini discussed efforts towards stability in the broader Middle East that encompasses Afghanistan and Pakistan. "We have a force in Afghanistan that is mainly involved in humanitarian missions," Mr Ghurair said. Mr Fini whose country also keeps a major force in Afghanistan, cited intelligence reports that terrorist groups were still spawning in Pakistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzi's power stops in the areas bordering Pakistan.

"Afghanistan and Iraq teach us one lesson and that is achieving victory in war is easy, but the difficult part is to maintain that victory," Mr Fini said. In their meeting, which went on for nearly an hour, the two discussed security co-operation between the UAE and Italy. In 2003, the UAE negotiated a defence memorandum of understanding with the Italian ministry of defence. The agreement still has not been approved by the Italian parliament.

Mr Fini promised that he would speed discussion and approval of the agreement in the Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of parliament. mhabboush@thenational.ae