The foreign policy adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cautioned that the United Arab Emirates’ claims of ownership over three contested islands could “destabalise the region’s security”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ali Akbar Velayati on Thursday reiterated his country’s stance towards the islands and said they are a part of Iran’s history and are an “integral part of our territory”.
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The decades-long dispute is over the Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa – three islands in the Strait of Hormuz that have been governed by Iran since 1971 and are claimed by the UAE as part of its territory.
The islands, where Iran launched military drills in August to showcase its readiness to defend them, have increasingly become the subject of political tensions.
“The UAE’s claims regarding the three islands have created problems between two neighbouring countries,” Velayati said. “We will not allow any false claims regarding the Persian Gulf to become a reality.”
“Repeated claims by the UAE about the three islands will destabilise the region’s security,” he added.
In 1971, the then-shah of Iran dispatched the royal navy to the three islands after the British withdrew their forces from what is today the UAE.
Emirati leaders have since maintained that the islands belong to them, with support from other Arab countries. Iran has dismissed these claims, rejecting the possibility of any negotiations over their ownership.
In July, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian envoy in Tehran to protest against a joint statement from Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that challenged Iran’s rights over the islands.
China, another strategic ally of Tehran, made a similar move in December, with President Xi Jinping and the GCC signing a joint statement that supported the UAE’s right to follow up on the ownership of the islands internationally.
This led to the Iranian foreign ministry summoning the Chinese ambassador to Tehran to protest against the move.
Strengthening regional relations
“We do not want conflict with our neighbours and are keen on peace without compromising on the integrity of our lands,” Velayati said.
He said countries in the region had “no alternative” other than to strengthen relations and end differences.
“We’re convinced of the need to establish regional security and are ready to implement this with neighbouring states,” Velayati added, citing the improvement of ties with traditional foe Saudi Arabia.
Last week, the two countries exchanged ambassadors, in an effort to cement a restoration of ties after a seven-year rupture.
China brokered the rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, which led to a resumption of full diplomatic relations. The two have backed opposing sides in conflict zones across the Middle East for years.