Russia’s Iran-UAE balancing act in the Gulf islands dispute

Russia’s Iran-UAE balancing act in the Gulf islands dispute

Having repeatedly sided with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over Iran in a long-standing dispute regarding three Gulf islands, Moscow appears to be risking its ties with Tehran.

The Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa islands in the Strait of Hormuz were taken over by Iran in 1971 after British forces withdrew from the UAE following the country’s independence, but Abu Dhabi has continually asserted its claim.

Last year, Russia took Iran by surprise when it signed a joint statement in favour of the UAE at a July summit between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and the Russian Federation.

The statement called for either bilateral negotiations or the International Court of Justice to resolve the issue “in accordance with the rules of international law and the United Nations Charter”.

In response, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian envoy to Tehran and asked him to correct Moscow’s “position on the issue”.

In December, Russia again endorsed the Emirati position on the islands in a joint declaration after the sixth Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Morocco.

Accompanied by a delegation, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was part of the assembly of ministers which described Iran’s control over the islands as “continued occupation”.

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