Iran summons Russian envoy over statement with GCC on islands

Like China did in December, Russia has signed a statement with the GCC, challenging Iran’s ownership of three islands.

The flags of United Arab Emirates and Iran
Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa have been governed by Iran since 1971 but are claimed by the UAE [File: Karim Sahib/AFP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s foreign ministry has summoned the Russian ambassador to Tehran over Moscow’s support for the United Arab Emirate’s claim over three disputed islands in a joint statement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Iran protested the challenging of its ownership over the islands in the Persian Gulf and asked Russia to “correct its position” on the issue, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry said the Russian envoy emphasised Russia’s respect for Iran’s territorial integrity and promised to relay the message of protest to Moscow.

On Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani rejected the statement over the islands, saying: “These islands perennially belong to Iran and issuing these kinds of statements is in contradiction to Iran’s friendly relations with its neighbours.”

In the statement, issued by Russia and the GCC after a joint strategic dialogue meeting on Monday in Moscow, Iran’s ownership of the Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa are challenged.

Russia and the Arab states said they support “all peaceful efforts, including the initiative of the UAE and its endeavours to reach a peaceful solution” to the issue “through bilateral negotiations or the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the rules of international law and the United Nations Charter”.

The three islands in the Strait of Hormuz have been governed by Iran since 1971, but are claimed by the UAE as part of its territory.

The then-shah of Iran dispatched the royal navy to the three islands in 1971 after the British withdrew their armed forces from what is today the UAE. Emirati leaders have since maintained that the islands belong to them, with support from other Arab states.

Iran has dismissed these calls, rejecting any negotiations.

Speaking following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mohammad Dehghan, the Iranian president’s deputy for legal affairs, also dismissed the UAE’s claims, saying all past documents indicate Iran’s indisputable ownership of the islands.

“Some regional rulers are trying to forge documents and bribe a number of international legal experts, which is void of legal value. Old documents on the issue are clear, and because the basis of our movement is legal, then we have no doubts on this,” he told reporters.

The summoning of the Russian ambassador is important as Tehran and Moscow grow closer politically, economically and militarily, especially after the start of the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Iran had recently called in the Chinese envoy after President Xi Jinping signed a joint statement with the GCC in December that supported the UAE’s right to follow up on the ownership of the islands internationally.

Xi hosted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Beijing a month later, where the two signed a number of agreements and supported improving bilateral relations.

China brokered an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March, which has led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations after seven years and has been accompanied by a flurry of diplomatic activity across the region.

In their statement, Russia and the GCC supported the agreement and said they hope it would “constitute a positive step to resolve differences and end all regional disputes through dialogue and diplomatic means”.

Source: Al Jazeera