The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to supporters during his trip to the island Abu Mussa in the Persian Gulf. (AFP)
The United Arab Emirates has summoned Iran's ambassador to Abu Dhabi to denounce a visit last week by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to one of three disputed islands in the Persian Gulf, the state news agency of the UAE said on Monday. Abu Dhabi earlier recalled its ambassador to Tehran. The Saudi cabinet, meeting in Riyadh on Monday, branded the trip a "violation of UAE sovereignty." Foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states are to hold a special meeting in the Qatari capital on Tuesday to discuss the dispute.On his controversial visit to the island last week, Mr Ahmadinejad, spoke to residents and insisted that the Gulf should be called the Persian Gulf and waved an Iranian flag before a crowd of people, also with flags in hand.
The Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the semi-official ISNA news agency yesterday: "Our legal right to these islands is not open for negotiation, and our ownership of these islands is something certain and registered."After 1971, some issues were raised that have led to misunderstandings, and we have announced numerous times that we are ready to discuss these misunderstandings, but not in the media.
The UEA foreign minister sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan said that the UAE considers Ahmadinejad's visit a violation of the agreement between Iran and the UAE". He said that the UAE wants to find a solution to the conflict, but that Iran's behaviour "might bring serious complications and implications", he said. "We have to have a clear agenda, a deadline for these negotiations." If necessary the parties should seek international arbitration or go to the International Court of Justice, Sheikh Abdullah said. "But we cannot keep this matter going on for ever."
Iran invaded the strategically situated islands, Abu Mussa, the Greater and Lesser Tunb in the Strait of Hormuz as Britain withdrew its forces from the Gulf on the eve of the UAE’s founding in 1971. A small force of Ras Al Khaimah police resisted. Three of them were killed. In an agreement between the UAE and Iran reached later that year, Iran was permitted to station troops on Abu Musa but the UAE retained sovereignty. Abu Dhabi says the Iranians have since taken control of the entire island which controls access to the oil-rich Gulf and have built an airport and military base there.