DUBAI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states plan to meet next week to discuss a dispute between the United Arab Emirates and Iran which broke out after the Iranian president visited a Gulf island claimed by both countries, a source familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
Wednesday’s meeting of foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council will be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the source told Reuters.
“This will be an extraordinary meeting which was called for by the UAE following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit,” the source added.
The UAE has recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations after what it called a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty, the state news agency WAM reported.
Iranian state media said Ahmadinejad visited Abu Musa island, some 60 km (40 miles) off the UAE, on Wednesday as part of a tour of Iran’s Gulf coast.
Both countries claim Abu Musa and two other small islands, located near key shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. The islands have been held by Iran since 1971, shortly before the seven Gulf emirates gained full independence from Britain and formed the UAE.
Ahmadinejad’s visit “is a flagrant violation of the United Arab Emirates’ sovereignty over its territory and a transgression of efforts to find a peaceful settlement to end Iranian occupation of the three UAE islands,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan was quoted as saying by WAM on Wednesday.
Abdullatif al-Zayani, head of the GCC - a regional bloc grouping the six Gulf Arab states - condemned the visit as “provocative” and a violation of UAE sovereignty.
The UAE also cancelled a friendly match with Iran’s national soccer team, due to be held on Tuesday in the Gulf Arab state.
Iran rejected the protests and said Ahmadinejad’s visit was an “internal Iranian matter”. Tehran said it was determined to improve bilateral ties and was ready for a dialogue with the UAE to resolve “possible misunderstandings”.
The UAE has urged Tehran to agree to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague or to hold direct negotiations.
Iran says its sovereignty over the islands is not negotiable but has called for talks with the UAE to clear up “misunderstandings”.
Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Tim Pearce