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Russia supports the United Arab Emirates regarding the islands in the Persian Gulf claimed by Iran.

Following renewed disputes over Iran’s rights, Tehran has once again asserted its sovereignty over three islands in the Persian Gulf. In a joint statement issued during the sixth joint ministerial meeting between Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Moscow, the ministers reaffirmed their support for the United Arab Emirates’ claim to sovereignty over the islands. The statement emphasized the need for bilateral negotiations or recourse to the International Court of Justice, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.

However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, denied the contents of the declaration, stating that the islands belong to Iran and that such declarations are not aligned with Iran’s friendly relations with its neighbors, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

While the first Russia-GCC strategic dialogue was held in Saudi Arabia in 2017, Moscow’s inclination towards Arab states has grown in recent years, particularly after the Ukraine conflict. Nonetheless, pledging allegiance to the UAE in the territorial dispute would deal a blow to Tehran, which has cultivated a closer alliance with Moscow since the Ukraine war.

The historical and geographical documents confirm that the three islands have been historically part of Iran. However, the United Arab Emirates has consistently claimed sovereignty over the islands, characterizing the situation as an ongoing occupation by Iran. The islands came under British control in 1921, but on November 30, 1971, the Iranian navy was dispatched to protect them the day after British troops left the area and two days before the UAE formally federated. Iranian troops continue to occupy the islands, with Abu Musa being the only one with a population of fewer than 2,000 civilians.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, has repeatedly expressed support for the UAE’s rights to restore sovereignty over the islands, including their territorial sea, airspace, continental shelf, and economic zone, as they are an integral part of the UAE. The GCC has urged Iran to respond to peaceful efforts by the UAE and the international community to resolve the issue or resort to the International Court of Justice. It has also called on Iran to adhere to the principles of promoting good-neighborly relations, mutual respect, and non-interference in internal affairs.

In the concluding statement of the Moscow summit, the Russian and GCC ministers welcomed the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, mediated by Oman, Iraq, and China. They expressed hope that the agreement would contribute positively to resolving differences through dialogue and diplomacy and ending all regional disputes. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hosted his Arab counterparts from the Persian Gulf, also welcomed the recent rapprochement, stating that it creates a more positive atmosphere in the region.

While the GCC countries have maintained friendly relations with Russia despite supporting the international community’s stance on the Ukraine conflict, they maintain their position based on international law and the United Nations Charter. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has expressed readiness to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and has strengthened ties with Ukraine by providing humanitarian aid and facilitating a prisoner exchange involving Russia, the United States, and Ukraine.

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