Iran and the Concession in the Persian Gulf

Re: Iran's Call for the Destruction of Israel

To the Editor:

There have been, and continue to be, significant territorial disputes between Persian Gulf countries. An important one is between the UAE and Iran over ownership of three Iranian islands — Abu Musa, Greater Tunb Island, and Lesser Tunb Island (Abu Musâ is both the name of a town and an island in the Persian Gulf). Abu Musâ Town, functions as the capital of the "Abu Musâ Island Group" in southern Iran, which enjoys hot and humid weather.

The "Abu Musâ Island Group" is an aggregate of six islands. These islands are: Abu Musâ, Greater Farur, Greater Tonb, Lesser Farur and Lesser Tonb ); all strategically located on the Strait of Hormoz. The three islands were owned by Iran, who has taken steps to exert unilateral control since 1992, including access restrictions and a military build-up on the island and protection against illegal activity from citizens of the UAE. The Iranian islands were and are an inseparable part of Iran.

Iran rejected a 1996 proposal by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) for the dispute to be resolved by the International Court of Justice, an option supported by the UAE puppet regime. On Dec. 31, 2001, the PGCC issued a statement reiterating its unjustified support for the undemocratic corrupt UAE regime over Iranian islands (Abu Musa and the Tunbs). Iran considers UAE's claims on the islands as "null and void," moreso as it is backed by UAE allies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Studies on the exploitation of the Arash field, which is jointly owned by Iran and Kuwait, have begun but no agreeement has been reached on the borderlines of the oil field. However, there are confirmed reports that Kuwait has started exploitation of the field with the help of American firms. Iran has strongly criticized Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for their reported activities to develop the Arash oil field they jointly share with Iran, stressing that any measure to that effect must be stopped.

According to Iranian sources, the Oil Ministry should demand that the Foreign Ministry become more engaged with the issue, and prevent any further overdevelopment of the Arash field. The oil field, with an estimated reserve of 754 mm barrels of oil, is located in Iran’s joint territorial waters with the southern states of the Persian Gulf, and has been a matter of dispute between Iran and Kuwait ever since the 1960's. Iran’s preliminary studies pertaining to the field three years ago drew a sharp reaction from Kuwait.

The remarks by the Kuwaiti minister on this issue weree astonishing, since they were made as the two sides were in the process of negotiations; Iran has been involved in a dispute with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia over the demarcation of the boundary through the northern Gulf continental shelf.

As reported by an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, on the proposal of Kuwaiti authorities it was recently agreed to conduct a seismic survey of the disputed area to demarcate the continental shelf between the two countries. Iran's parliamentary energy committee is reviewing the latest Kuwaiti statements about the Arash field, which is adjacent to the Dorra field in the Divided Neutral Zone shared by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

It is imperative that our country and other Persian Gulf states build bridges of confidence. Persian Gulf people (Iranian and non-Iranian) living in this strategically important region are in the same boat, and they cannot afford to do anything but make the Persian Gulf waters a sea of cooperation and peace.

With this is mind, it must be pointed out that some aspects of the Iranian politics in the region are conducive to defusing tension. In fact, they do not give any rise to doubts and concerns among the Persian Gulf countries (compared to UAE politics), and it shows in Iran’s positive impressions throughout the region.

Morteza Aminmansour