The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates likened Iran's control of three disputed Gulf islands to Israel's occupation of Arab territories.
"The occupation of any Arab land is an occupation," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said in a question-and-answer session of the consultative Federal National Council, according to WAM state news agency. "There is no difference between Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, the West Bank or Gaza, as occupation remains occupation... No Arab land is more precious than another," he said, referring to the tiny islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.
Iran, under the rule of the Western-backed shah, gained control of the islands in 1971, as Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.
The Islamic republic took possession of the Tunbs, while Abu Musa -- the only inhabited island -- was placed under joint administration in a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.
But the UAE says the Iranians have since taken control of all access to the strategic island and installed an airport and military base there.
The Iranian government responded by criticizing the remarks of the UAE minister.
April 21, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
Tensions between the UAE and Iran fluctuate over the disputed islands. The last time tensions rose were when the Iranian government installed military survaillance equipment on the islands last year. There were no military confrontations over the islands yet. However, the spat between the UAE and Iran come as tensions rise between Iran and the West, as well as between Iran and the rest of the Sunni-dominated Islamic world. Although military action over the islands is not expected, the rise of tensions between the two countries reflect the deteriorating relationship between Iran and the GCC and increases the likelihood of the GCC siding with the West if Iran is attacked, rather than take a more impartial position.