Persian Gulf Foreign Ministers Meet to Set Up Iran-UAE Talks on Island

July 11, 1999 - 0:0
TEHRAN A three-nation panel of foreign ministers met in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to try to set up direct talks between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over an island misunderstanding. Officials said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met his Qatari and Omani counterparts, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani and Yussef bin Alawi respectively, in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. They held talks on setting up a "mechanism" for direct talks on the longstanding misunderstanding over the strategic island of Abu Mussa in the southern Persian Gulf. It was the committee's first meeting since it was set up on July 3 by the six-nation Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC). On a Persian Gulf tour to drum up support for the work of the committee, Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz said Friday in Manama that Iran should work to improve ties with its Arab neighbors.

"We ought to keep working to develop relations with Iran, which ... should try to strengthen ties of friendship, cooperation and good neighborliness with countries in the region," he said. Riyadh's growing rapprochement with Tehran sparked sharp criticism last month from the UAE, which accused its allies in the PGCC of abandoning Abu Dhabi in its territorial misunderstanding with Iran. But Qatar mediated a reconciliation between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, leading to last week's formation of the committee, which has been given until May to complete its mission.

On Wednesday, Iran itself urged the committee to press the UAE to enter direct talks.