Friday , 8 December 2023

Iran’s thaw with regional rivals threatened by UAE, Kuwait disputes

Al-Monitor – Iran strongly criticized this week the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over two statements by the Arab body that underlined lingering disputes between the Islamic Republic and its rivals in the region.  

At a ministerial meeting in Cairo this week, the first GCC statement — also endorsed by the Japanese government — defended the UAE’s claim to the three Gulf islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, all currently under Tehran’s control. The GCC called for peaceful negotiations to addresstheUAE’s position. 

The Islamic Republic, in contrast, said the islands were not up for negotiation. “Iran has time and again emphasized its territorial sovereignty and has asserted its rule over the three Iranian islands in accordance with regulations agreed upon under international law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani declared on Thursday, as reported by Iran’s state-funded Mizan News Agency. 

Kanani argued that the islands “are inseparable and eternal parts of the Iranian soil,” saying the GCC statement carried “zero political and legal value.”  

The GCC separately touched upon the ownership of the Durra gas field, which is the cause of another dispute between Iran, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, on the other. The Arab ministers claimed exclusive ownership by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait of the massive energy resource.  

The two GCC statements came against the backdrop of a détente pursued by the Islamic Republic with such countries as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. While the diplomatic drive has been promoted at home by the government of President Ebrahim Raisi, the deep-lying differences with the old rivals seemed to be complicating the prospects of the thaw.  

Even major Iran allies have disappointed Tehran with regard to those rifts. Iran’s Foreign Ministry had to summon both Russian and Chinese ambassadors, respectively in July and December, to protest the two government’s siding with the GCC over the contested islands.  

Describing the Kuwaiti and Saudi position on the gas field as “repeated, baseless claims,” Iran’s state media argued that Tehran has been pushing for a negotiated resolution among the three countries.   

“Iran expects neighbors to take a realistic approach and refrain from expressing untrue claims,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in response to the GCC’s stance on the Durra gas field. 

He added that Tehran has reiterated the need for “friendly cooperation in the Arash gas field,” using the Persian name for the massive energy supply.  

In a similar reaction last month, oil minister Javad Owji had declared that “Iran will not forgo its right to exploring and developing the gas field, nor will it tolerate any violation of that right.”