MANAMA (AFP) — Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday his country respects Bahrain's independence, countering anger in the tiny island state about alleged remarks by an Iranian official.
Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki sent a message to his Bahraini counterpart that "asserted his country's commitment to Bahrain's sovereignty and independence," a statement on Bahrain's official news agency BNA said.
"Reopening files of the past does not serve the interests of ... the region," said Mottaki's message, which Iran's ambassador in Bahrain delivered to Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, the statement said.
Bahrain's cabinet earlier on Sunday branded as "irresponsible" comments by Ali Akber Nateq Nouri, a prominent conservative member of Iran's powerful expediency council, after he allegedly said the Gulf kingdom used to be Iran's 14th governorate and had a representative in its parliament, BNA reported.
"The irresponsible Iranian comments harm the trust building efforts between the Arab and Iranian sides ... and take the region back to past eras of colonisation and dominance," the cabinet said in a statement.
In the light of the row, Bahrain last week pulled out of talks on a deal to import gas from Iran. It said it has tightened restrictions on dhows passing through its waters, but denied media reports that it has imposed a ban on Iranian ships.
The relationship between Sunni-ruled Arab states in the Gulf and Shiite Iran has long been strained, with its neighbours wary about the Islamic republic's nuclear drive.
Gulf foreign and finance ministers meeting in the Saudi capital on Sunday criticised the "irresponsible" comments.
"The ministers expressed their hopes that Iran's government will condemn and end such dissonant voices that do not serve (the purpose of) security and stability in the region," said Abdulrahman al-Attiya, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.