The United Arab Emirates (UAE) today called on Iran to refer their dispute over the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in the absence of serious direct talks between the two countries over the three islands, the issue needs to be referred to ICJ.
“Since the illegitimate occupation of these islands in 1971, the UAE has adopted a flexible diplomatic approach to resolve this matter through peaceful means, through direct bilateral negotiations, or by referring the matter to the International Court of Justice,” Sheikh Abdullah told the General Assembly.
“The actions taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran with the aim of changing the legal, physical and demographic situation of the islands are null and void and have no legal effect whatsoever.
“Those Iranian actions also constitute a violation of international law, and the UN Charter. Therefore, the UAE demands of the Islamic Republic of Iran to enter into serious and direct negotiations between the two countries, or to refer the issue to the International Court of Justice in the light of its continuous illegal occupation of the three islands which are an integral part of the territorial sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates,” Sheikh Abdullah added [UN News Center, 26 September].
The controversy over the three islands goes back to early 1970s when the British were pulling out of the Persian Gulf. They put pressure on the shah’s government to renounce Iran’s historical claim over Bahrain in return for the three islands, which also had long been claimed by Iran. Shah agreed and Iran occupied the islands.
The newly independent Bahrain then joined the Federation of Arab Emirates (FAE) that was to be formed after the British departure. The FAE (which included today’s UAE plus Bahrain and Qatar) in return accepted Iran’s sovereignty over the three islands.
In 1971, Bahrain and Qatar reneged on their memberships at FAE and the newly formed UAE later renounced Iran’s sovereignty over the islands.