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Book on Three Islands released in Abu Dhabi

(Wam) / 30 November 2013

‘The Three Islands - mapping the UAE-Iran dispute’ launched was launched to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of the occupation of the UAE’s islands.

A new book entitled “The Three Islands - mapping the UAE-Iran dispute” was launched in Abu Dhabi on Friday to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of the occupation of the UAE’s islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb in November 1971.

The launch ceremony at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre was attended by Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President’s Representative, Sir Harold Walker, former British Ambassador to the UAE and Professor Michael Clarke, Director of the Royal United Services Institute in London, the publishers of the book, as well as by its author, Shaikh Khalid bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The book will also be launched in London next week.

In introductory remarks, Sir Harold and Professor Clarke praised Shaikh Khalid, who has recently been awarded his PhD by King’s College, London, for the thoroughness of his research into the history of the dispute.

In a speech to an invited audience, Shaikh Khalid noted that he had sought to present the issue clearly and concisely, but also as comprehensively as possible, putting forward the arguments of both sides. In the short term, he suggested, there was little chance of the dispute being solved, since this would require a change in the Iranian attitude. More engagement from the United States and from other members of the international community in support of the UAE’s legitimate case would be required, he suggested.

In the book, Shaikh Khalid notes: “If the three islands dispute is to be resolved in the UAE’s favour, it will need a positive change in the Iranian regime’s regional threat perception, and even then nothing is guaranteed.”

Yet, he predicts, “the time of protracted stalemate may have drawn to a close.”

Shaikh Khalid noted in his speech that the dispute over the islands had been “very well handled” by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

“He realised that the UAE should certainly not give up claim to territory that is legally the property of the country, and he never did,” Shaikh Khalid said.

“But he also realised that the islands should not be allowed, in themselves, to draw the UAE into conflict with its much bigger neighbour - Iran. This was particularly so in the early years of the UAE when Shaikh Zayed had so much to do in consolidating the UAE internally, helping to create its unique Emirati society, and also steering it through the security politics of the Gulf region during some very turbulent times. He achieved a wonderful – and much admired – balance between pragmatism and principle in all of his policies and this can be seen from early on in the UAE’s history during the 1970s.”

He went on to note, however, that the issue of the three islands has “been a constant source of tension between the UAE and Iran and it has wider implications for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the region as a whole.”

Any solution to the issue must come through diplomacy, he argued.

“Yet diplomacy must be backed with some sort of realistic power. The UAE... has many sources of power to deploy – soft and hard power, economic and cultural power, the power of partnerships, of alliances, and of, respect for it in other parts of the world. Diplomacy is not a matter of persuasion alone, but rather the use of all available resources to achieve peaceful and advantageous outcomes for a government... From the moment of its creation in 1971, the UAE has consistently claimed sovereignty over Abu Musa and the Tunbs and has put this issue at the forefront of its foreign policy,”

“It is difficult,” Shaikh Khalid said, “to overestimate the strength of feeling within the UAE that this dispute generates. National prestige and status are at stake and thus there are no indications that as the years pass without any visible signs of progress, that the UAE is willing to soften its opposition to Iran’s de facto control over the islands.

“Only by better analysis and public understanding can we move towards the prospect of an eventual resolution,” he concluded. “It may take some time, but history suggests that the combination of understanding and patience can be surprisingly effective. “

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