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Iran’s Foreign Minister Slams Russia’s Joint Statement with GCC on Contested Islands

By Nigar Bayramli July 18, 2023

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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at a joint press conference in Moscow, Russia on March 29, 2023. / MFA.gov.ir

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, has expressed dissatisfaction with Russia’s recent joint statement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regarding three disputed islands controlled by Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

“We will never tolerate the repetition of such a procedure in the statements and interference be it on the part of Russia or any other party in issues related to the territorial integrity of Iran,” Amir-Abdollahian said during a joint press conference in Tehran on July 17, alongside his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr Bin Hamad Bin Hamud al-Busaidi.

Amir-Abdollahian added that Iran “received explanations from the Russian officials in that regard but consider them to be inadequate.” According to him, the islands in question — Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa — belong unequivocally to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The joint statement issued by the GCC and Russia during the sixth ministerial meeting of strategic dialogue in Moscow on July 10 called for resolving the dispute through bilateral negotiations or by resorting to the International Court of Justice, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.

In response to Russia’s stance on the islands, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanani criticized Russia’s “inaccurate” stance and urged both Russia and the Gulf states “to respect Iran’s territorial integrity.” Kanani further asserted that Iran would have “a serious reaction” to “any move against Iran’s territorial integrity,” adding that “intervention by any party, including the governments of the UAE or Russia, is unacceptable.” He stated that Iran had officially lodged a complaint with Russia over its “politicized, inaccurate, and non-constructive” position and asserted that the islands would never be up for negotiation.

In response to the joint statement, Iran also summoned the Russian ambassador on July 12. During the meeting, Alireza Enayati, Iran’s foreign minister’s special aide and head of the ministry’s Persian Gulf Department, emphasized Iran’s ownership of the islands and asked the Russian ambassador to relay the issue to Moscow. The Russian envoy expressed Moscow’s respect for Iran’s territorial integrity during the meeting.

On July 14, Tehran’s envoy to Moscow, Kazem Jalali, met with Mikhail Bogdanov, the representative of the Russian president for the Middle East at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian side reiterated its unwavering position, acknowledging Iran as a friendly nation whose sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by Moscow.

Since 1971, the islands have been under Iranian control, despite the UAE’s claim of ownership. The GCC’s statements often express support for the UAE’s claim, while Iran consistently rejects those claims. In December 2022, Tehran summoned the Chinese ambassador when the three islands were mentioned in a joint China-GCC statement, despite Iran’s close alliance with both Russia and China.