UAE says islands row won’t hit trade


Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum also said his country will not oppose Iran’s nuclear programme if it convinced the world the plans were peaceful.

Sheikh Mohamed’s remarks, part of answers to citizens’ questions posted on his website, could pave the way for long-proposed talks with Iran to resolve the three-decade-old territorial dispute.

Disputes “over national borders have never prevented trade and human exchange”, he said. “Is it easier to resolve your conflicts with friends or with enemies?” asked Sheikh Mohamed, also ruler of Dubai.

“Trade relations between any two nations always lead to better relations and facilitate the resolution of conflicts.”

Iran has often described the dispute as “a misunderstanding” and rejected calls for a solution through international bodies.

“We do not need mediators with Iran. Our position is clear: We are eager to reach a peaceful settlement of the matter with our neighbours in Iran. We pray that we will find a solution to this issue as per the articles of international law,” he said.

The UAE and Iran have strong trade relations but diplomatic ties were strained after Iran installed maritime offices on one of the disputed islands in the strategic Gulf waterway in 2008.

Sheikh Mohamed said seeking radical solutions to the issue of the islands—Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs—could serve the interests of unspecified foreign powers.

“Crisis scenarios allow third parties to intervene and pursue their own interests on the account of the conflicting parties and the entire region.”

Sheikh Mohamed, whose country plans to develop a nuclear energy programme with Western support, said Abu Dhabi will not interfere with Tehran’s nuclear plans.

“Iran’s nuclear programme is an internal matter of the nation of Iran, as long as our brothers in Iran continue to reassure the world that the programme is peaceful.”

But, he said, “our firm and announced position concerning all kinds of weapons of mass destruction—whether nuclear, chemical, or biological—is that we call for freeing the Middle East region from all such weapons.”


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