UAE recalls its ambassador from Tehran after Ahmadinejad’s visit to disputed island


The United Arab Emirates recalled its ambassador from Tehran, state news agency WAM reported, after having protested the visit by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a disputed island.

“The foreign ministry has recalled its ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saif Mohammed Abid al-Zaabi, for consultations,” it said.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan had earlier slammed the visit by the Iranian President , the state news agency said.

“Sheikh Abdullah blasted the visit as a ‘flagrant violation’ of UAE sovereignty over its territories and a set back to all efforts and attempts the UAE is making to find a peaceful settlement to Iran’s occupation of the three UAE islands,” WAM reported late on Wednesday.

“This visit will not change the legal status of these islands which are part ... of the UAE national soil,” the English-language statement said.

During his visit to Abu Musa island on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad insisted historical documents proved “the Persian Gulf is Persian,” according to the official IRNA news agency.

The Iranian leader said the name “Persian Gulf” derived from the “culture, civilization and the dominant opinion” of the area.

“Since a few thousand years ago, the main culture in most of the world was the Iranian culture and civilization, and it is clear that the naming (of the waterway) would be based on the name of this culture and land.

“I am not worried about some claims to the Persian Gulf at all, because only one who is weak would be worried” about such claims, Ahmadinejad said.

The Iranian state news agency IRNA said Ahmadinejad visited Abu Musa island on Wednesday as part of a tour of Iran’s Gulf coast, but did not refer to the territorial dispute.

Ahmadinejad’s visit to the strategic Persian Gulf Island is considered to be the first trip by a head of state since Tehran retook possession of the island 41 years ago.

Sheikh Abdullah, who visited Iran in February, said Ahmadinejad’s move and “provocative rhetoric... expose Iran’s false allegations regarding its keenness to establish good relations... with the UAE and countries of the region.”

The Emirati minister said Ahmadinejad’s actions come at a time “when the two countries agreed to exert more joint efforts” to resolve their dispute. “The visit... was a gross breach of this agreement.”

He urged Iran “to take measures and stances that strengthen confidence between countries and people of the region and refrain from such provocative” acts.

History of the dispute

Iran, under the rule of the Western-backed shah, gained control of the islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb in 1971, as Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.

Abu Musa, the only inhabited island of the three, was placed under joint administration in a deal with Sharjah, now part of the United Arab Emirates.

But the UAE government says the Iranians have since taken control of all access to the strategic island and installed an airport and military base there.

The UAE has urged Tehran to agree to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Iran says its sovereignty over the islands is not negotiable but has called for talks with the UAE to clear up “misunderstandings.”