Sep 9, 2008
DUBAI (AFP) — The United Arab Emirates on Saturday renewed calls for Iran to start talks over three disputed islands held by Tehran and whose status has marred relations between the Gulf neighbours for decades.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammad Gargash said his country wishes to resolve the dispute through direct talks or international arbitration, a proposal the country has made several times.
"The Emirates wants to resolve the occupied islands problem with neighbouring Iran," Gargash said on the sidelines of a meeting in Damascus of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
"Unfortunately, despite the passage of more than three decades, I cannot remember there having been any positive issues in that respect," he added in remarks published by the official WAM news agency.
Iran, under the rule of the Western-backed shah, gained control of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa islands in 1971, as Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.
Iran took possession of the Tunbs, while Abu Musa -- the only inhabited island -- was placed under joint administration under a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.
But since then, the UAE says the Iranians have taken control of all access to the strategic island and installed an airport and military base there.
The UAE has the full backing of fellow GCC states Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in its claim to the islands, near the Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 40 percent of the world's crude oil passes.