x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE urges peaceful response on islands

The UAE has urged Iran to respond to its "peaceful initiatives" to settle the ownership of three islands in the Gulf.

The UAE has urged Iran to respond to its "peaceful initiatives" to settle the disputed ownership of three islands in the Gulf, either through negotiation or by referring the case to the International Court of Justice, the government news agency WAM reported yesterday. Greater and Lesser Tunbs, about 32km south of the Iranian island of Qeshm, and Abu Musa, closer to the UAE coast, were seized by Iran by force in 1971.

Having strategic significance so close to the Strait of Hormuz, they have been the subject of controversy and political wrangling ever since, not least because they have been linked to Iranian statements over the years that the country reserves the right to prevent the flow of oil through the bottleneck. The appeal was made on Tuesday by Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, during his address to the 15th meeting of foreign ministers of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran, which ended yesterday.

"Enhancement of NAM's capacity to stand up to international challenges requires true commitment to the principles it was founded for, mainly those dealing with respect for sovereignty of states and self-determination of peoples, non-interference into other states' affairs and settlement of disputes and cases of foreign occupation through peaceful means," said Dr Gargash. When it came to Iran's nuclear development, he said, there was a need for "dialogue and diplomatic negotiations and commitment to international relevant resolutions to ensure transparency in maintaining security and stability, safety of the environment and sustainable development in the region".

WAM reported that the minister also called for the international community to establish a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and to put pressure on Israel to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in compliance with UN resolutions. The UAE, said Dr Gargash, condemned "the aggressions and crimes of war being committed by the occupying state of Israel against the Palestinian people on the Palestinian occupied lands, reaffirms the key role the UN and mainly the security council can play to force Israel to halt its crimes against the Palestinian people, end its occupation and stop expropriation of lands for building more settlements and the separation wall which violates international legitimacy resolutions".

Efforts should be doubled, he said, to spur the world community to revive peace negotiations and to resolve the conflict on the basis of the "land for peace" formula and the Middle East "road map for peace". Dr Gargash also urged the international community and Iraq's neighbours to supply the political support necessary to help the country's government forge ahead with national reconciliation and its efforts to fight terrorism, maintain security and achieve political independence.

He reminded the ministers that "out of its commitment to support Iraq, the UAE has waived US$4 billion [Dh14.6bn] in Iraq debts along with interest and arrears. We have also opened an embassy in Baghdad and named a resident ambassador there." * WAM