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Why the fight over Abu Musa?
Why are the UAE and Iran squaring up over an island which measures just about 12 square kilometers, almost 350 times smaller than the emirate of Dubai?
August 31, 2008 11:59 by kippreport
The UAE has recently sent a complaint to the UN, about Iran’s reported establishment of facilities on the island of Abu Musa. In a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the UAE claimed that Iran was continuing to violate an agreement signed between the two sides in 1971. Tehran has reportedly established a maritime rescue office and an office for the registration of ships and sailors on the island, which the UAE lays claim to.
International documents show that three islands, which were historically owned by Iran, temporarily fell to British control in 1903. When British forces left the Gulf in 1971, Iran took possession of Greater and Lesser Tunbs, while Abu Musa, the only inhabited island, was placed under joint administration under a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.
Iran has repeatedly dismissed the UAE claims over Abu Musa, stressing its ownership over the islands are indisputable. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in mid-August that that they are open to talks with the UAE to remove any misunderstanding about the islands.
So what value does the island hold?
The island is valued by these two countries for economic, security, and environmental reasons, according research from the American University in Washington. One significant feature about the island is that it is potentially full of oil reserves. Also, the island is located in the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Arabian Gulf. This strategic position could allow a country to influence the Gulf’s shipping lane.
But there are also environmental concerns associated with Abu Musa. If there were to be an oil spill on or around this island, it could have consequences on the environment and the nearby animal life.
The UAE enjoys major Arab backing in the dispute. The GCC has strongly denounced Iran’s move, saying the islands belong to the UAE and are being occupied by Iran.
But tension between the two countries will not spell well for either nation.
According to reports, Iranian investment in Dubai reaches about $14bn each year, and an estimated 450,000 Iranians live in the UAE.