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Persian Gulf

Mind your own business
EU interference in the issue of Persian Gulf islands

By Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh
June 10, 2004

Open letter by Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Professor of Geopolitics at the Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran and Chairman of the Urosevic Research Foundation in London, regarding the recent support of the European Union for the United Arab Emirat's claim of the three Persian Gulf islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Mousa.

H. E. Javier Solana
10 June 2004
High Representative of the European Union For Common Foreign and Security Policies

Dear Sir,

Clearly the EU-GCC resolution of 19 May 2004 was the main source of encouragement for Abu Dhabi to commit the armed assault on the Iranian boat in the territorial waters of Abu Musa on Thursday June 3rd 2004, in spite of the fact that Abu Musa's territorial waters are under joint Iranian-Sharjah Sovereignty. The UAE assault was an aggressive act designed to trigger a chain reaction that would overthrow regional peace and stability that was achieved through years of Arab-Iranian hard work and cooperation. Hence, the European Union can be held responsible for encouraging this naked act of aggression by the UAE.

Reports on Wednesday 19th May 2004 had it that in a statement issued at the end of a joint meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council and EU ministers, the two sides called for an urgent resolution, through direct negotiations or international arbitration, of the UAE dispute with Iran over the three Persian Gulf islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa. The statement told the two sides to negotiate, and if they could not find a way, refer their dispute to an international judicial institution.

Having described this statement as interfering in internal affairs of Iran and giving recognition to the UAE view that it has territorial 'disputes' with Iran, I heard your spokesman Christina Gallach stating to the international media that: the (EU-GCC) resolution does not take sides, and does not mean EU's interference in national affairs of either country. This of course is not true, and as will be explained in details, the resolution in question both interferes in Iran's internal affairs and sides with the United Arab Emirates, recognizing the claim that it has 'territorial disputes' with Iran. Otherwise, the Director General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who is known for his radical Arab nationalist tendencies, would not bother to use its influence through the EU and GCC Common Commission and arrange for such a high-powered meeting to come up with such a resolution.

Abdul Rahman Al-Atiyah, the current Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council once before publicly demonstrated his radical nationalistic tendencies. In May 2003 meeting of the Islamic Conference Foreign Ministers in Tehran he broke the order of the meeting and intrusively propagated Abu Dhabi's illegal claims on Iranian territories without prior warning and without any respect for the agenda of the meeting. In that intrusion he ignored the common practice of the Arab world in refraining from the use of the fabricated name for the Persian Gulf in international relations as the term "Gulf Cooperation Council" is the best example in this context, and referred to the Persian Gulf in Tehran with the name that has been fabricated by ultra-Arab nationalists like Saddam Hussein to demonstrate their anti-Persian sentiments.

Your Excellency, before endorsing the issue of any resolution on the subject of the three islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa you were expected to know all about what the GCC director general and the chiefs of Abu Dhabi consider as UAE "territorial disputes" with Iran. It is for such background information that I present to Your Excellency the attached text which is a brief account of the geographical, historical and legal aspects of the issue of these three islands in the Persian Gulf.

Similarly, before endorsing any resolution interfering with Iran's territorial rights over these islands, you were expected to ask for the relevant files in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Great Britain, a member-state of the European Union, and to see for yourself that the three islands in question were returned to Iran in November 1997 through legal process. Having done so you would see at least my letters of July 10, and August 12, 1997 in which I convinced British Minister of State for Foreign (Middle Eastern) Affairs that his interference with the subject of these islands in conjunction with Abu Dhabi's endeavour in politicizing and internationalizing the case of its claims would jeopardize his country's impartiality in the matter of Abu Dhabi's territorial agitations against Iran.

However, your spokesman's assertion that the EU-GCC resolution of 19 May 2004 does not take sides, and does not mean EU's interference in national affairs of either country is not true because:

1- Considering that all countries of the world (except for the former Baath regime of Iraq) have declared impartiality in the United Arab Emirate's territorial agitation against Iran, to speak of the necessity of solving the "disputes" between the two sides, is to officially recognize existence of territorial disputes between Iran and the UAE. Although Abu Dhabi by resorting to such description of its claims against Iran is trying to give the impression of legitimacy to its illegal claims, the fact from the Iranian point of view is that there is no "dispute" between the two countries and all that is there, is a one sided claim to the Iranian territories by Abu Dhabi. The issue of a communiqué by the European Union in association with the Gulf Cooperation Council that would refer to the existence of such a "dispute" between the two countries, which is exactly the impression that Abu Dhabi wants to create, will mean that the European Union has last its impartiality and has sided with Abu Dhabi's position.

2- The advice on urgent resolution of the UAE dispute with Iran can only be addressed to the United Arab Emirates by urging it to bring to an urgent end the "dispute" it has manufactured against Iran.

Alternatively, if the assertion is meant to attribute the notion of dispute to both Iran and the UAE, considering that there is no such dispute from the Iranian point of view, the European Union has lost its claim of impartiality by recognizing Abu Dhabi's incorrect view that Iran has such disputes with it.

3- Considering that in its endeavour to politicize and internationalize its claims on the Iranian territories Abu Dhabi unilaterally demands for the case of these so-called "disputes" to be referred to international judicial arbitration, any reference to such a demand by the European Union can only mean an official endorsement of Abu Dhabi's one-sided demand. Such a reference will take the European Union out of its declared impartiality and will automatically mean an official EU recognition of Abu Dhabi's illogical position.

4- As for direct negotiation the European Union should have been informed that in the past 12 years at least on five occasions Iranian officials initiated direct talks with the officials of the United Arab Emirates and in all five times the UAE officials declined to talk with the Iranians. Yet, in order to politicize and internationalize its claims Abu Dhabi constantly complains about Iran's lack of interest in direct talks. In such a situation any European Union endorsement of the need for "direct negotiations" yet again will only support the deceptive façade that Abu Dhabi is creating and that will do away with EU's impartiality in that issue.

5- Within the same context, it might interest the European Union to note that once before, in December 1971 Abu Dhabi joined four radical Arab states (including the former Baath regime of Iraq), who launched a formal complaint against Iran at UN Security Council on the issue of the return of the islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa to her. The Council met on December 9, 1971 and after some deliberations closed the issue and filed the complaint away without any objection from those present. It is obvious that no country in the world would be prepared to go to international arbitration more than once or each time that another country might fancy to claim its territory. Hence, endorsing Abu Dhabi's illogical demand for referring the case of its claims on Iranian territories to international arbitration after it was done so once before, will amount to no less than loss of impartiality on the part of the European Union.

6- It is also noteworthy for the European Union that a case of territorial dispute might be referred to an international tribunal only when all other means of resolving it has been exhausted. Direct negotiations is the first and the easiest means of settling such disputes and in this case it is the United Arab Emirates that has refused at least on five occasions to discuss the issue of its claims on Iranian territories with the Iranian officials. Faced with these facts, any European Union reference to the "need for direct negotiations" can only endorse Abu Dhabi's show of innocence and that will do away with European Union's impartiality in the subject of these islands.

Your Excellency, many times in this letter I referred to the United Arab Emirates' claims on the Iranian islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa as Abu- Dhabi's "illegal claims". I assure you that I have not used the term lightly and that there are good arguments that will demonstrate the illegal and or illegitimate nature of the claims fanatically pursued by the Aal Nahyan leaders of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi who happens to have kept the leadership of the federation of the United Arab Emirates to themselves for over 33 years now against the text of the Constitution of the Union that prescribes for the leadership of the union and the key posts to rotate among the leaders of the seven member emirates.

Abu Dhabi's claims on Iranian territories are illegal because:

1- The islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa were returned to Iran on November 30th 1971 through legal process, including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, before the state of the United Arab Emirates was created and the Aal Nahyan took its leadership. According to international regulations no state can defy the agreements that had come into being before its creation unless such agreements had been officially declared as null and void by the newly created state.

Not only did not the United Arab Emirates declare the arrangements arrived at by Iran and Great Britain (acting as the government of emirates of Sharjah and Ras al- Kheimah at the time) on the return of the three islands, but also the Supreme Council of the Union decided in its meeting of 12 May 1992 that foreign obligations of the emirates prior to the formation of the United Arab Emirates will be the obligations of the Union itself.

Moreover, in its circular of 27 October 1992, distributed among the representatives of member states of the United Nations, Abu Dhabi asked Iran to observe the terms of its November 1971 MoU with Sharjah. Hence, laying claims on islands returned to Iran before the formation of the United Arab Emirates through legal process is an illegal act by Abu Dhabi.

2- The MoU of November 1971, signed between Iran and Sharjah, is a legal instrument which gives no right of interference to any third party. Also the return of the two Tunb islands to Iran by Great Britain took place on the basis of unwritten understanding between the two as Iran deemed that any written agreement would put her absolute sovereignty over these islands in doubt.

Nonetheless, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom at the United Nations declared in the Security Council meeting of December 9, 1971 that the arrangement arrived at between his country and Iran on these islands constituted a model arrangement for the settlement of similar territorial issues elsewhere in the world. Hence, Abu Dhabi's lack of respect for these arrangements renders its claims on these islands illegal.

3- In the meeting of 12 may 1992 of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates the Emir of Sharjah who is Iran's original partner in the 1971 MoU, refused to pass his Emirate's authority over the issue of Abu Musa island to the UAE leadership and left the meeting. Hence, Abu Dhabi's action in assuming authority for the case of Abu Musa Island in the absence of the ruler of Sharjah and without his consent renders any claim by Abu Dhabi on that island illegal.

4- In an insincere manner Abu Dhabi is trying to present the practice of the return of Abu Musa and Tunb islands to Iran on November 30th 1971 as a military occupation. In its scenario the visit to Abu Musa island of an Iranian naval vessel that went there to hoist the Iranian flag on the island was enough a reason to manufacture the accusation of an Iranian military occupation of the island, disregarding the fact that in the island the Iranian naval representatives were welcomed officially by the brother of the Emir of Sharjah. Hoisting the flag of the recipient state on the territory changed hand between two states is a legal practice as US navy hoisted that country's flag at Alaska when that territory was transferred to US sovereignty from Russia.

At Greater Tunb a misunderstanding between the English commander of the police station and some Iraqi elements there resulted in shooting between them. In a swift response, the Iranian naval vessel that had just arrived to hoist Iranian flag there arrested those involved and sent them back to Ras al-Kheimah. Clearly the attempt by Abu Dhabi in portraying this local incident at Greater Tunb and the official welcome extended to the Iranian representatives at Abu Musa as Iran's military occupation of the three islands will demonstrate the falsehood nature of its claims on these islands.

5- Finally, the European Union aught to know that no country is under obligation to refer to international judicial arbitration a territorial claim by another country which is based on lack of awareness of and respect for international laws and regulations.

Your Excellency, considering all the above and those in the attached text I see no alternative but to declare that any recognition of these falsehood by the European Union as "territorial disputes" between Iran and the UAE will render the EU interference in the issue of Abu Dhabi's territorial agitation against Iran illegal and out of order. By launching an armed assault on an Iranian boat in the territorial waters of Abu Musa Island under joint Iranian-Sharjah sovereignty and by detaining its crew on Saturday 6 June 2004, Abu Dhabi has brought into open its old hidden agenda of military adventurism against Iran's territorial rights, ultimately aimed at overthrowing the vital Arab-Iranian cooperation for peace and security of the Persian Gulf.

To be able to arrive at this contemptible juncture the Al Nahyan leaders of Abu Dhabi have managed to secure the indirect endorsement of the EU and GCC leaders with the help of Mr. al-Atiyah for its territorial agitations from the European Union in the form of the EU-GCC resolution of 19 May 2004. For too long the Al Nahyan regime in Abu Dhabi, formerly supported by the Baath regime of Iraq, had been contemplating to prevent expansion of Arab-Iranian cooperation for the safeguarding of peace and security in the Persian Gulf which has come about as a result of joint efforts by Tehran and Riyadh with active participation of Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Now, it seems that by skillfully drawing the politicians in both European Union and GCC into providing Abu Dhabi with the desired endorsement of intended political adventurism, the Al-Nahyan launched their first armed adventure on 3rd June 2004 and/thus brought into open their true intentions.

Sincerely yours,

Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh

H. E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, Brussels
H. H. Amir Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
H. H. Sheikh Jaber As-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, Kuwait
H. M. Sheikh Hamad bin Issa, King of Bahrain, Manama
H. M. Sultan Qabus bin Saeed, Sultan of Oman, Muscat
H. H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar

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