Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ball remains in Iran's court

Dec.4, 2007

Ball remains in the Iranian court

MUCH expectations were attached to the first appearance of an Iranian president at a summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) because of the challenges the region faces and the pressing need to work on clearing the atmosphere of all major outstanding issues with a view to building regional co-operation.
On the surface, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call at the GCC summit in Doha on Monday for Gulf states and Iran to work together towards establishing regional security and economic co-operation sounded great. In principle, the GCC has always remained committed to regional interaction that would benefit all sides concerned and strengthen regional stability and security under the right conditions and circumstances.
However, Ahmadinejad spoke at the Doha summit as if everything else was fine, all the elements were in place for regional co-operation and that it was only a matter of political will on the part of the GCC to build a strategic relationship with Iran.
The Iranian leader did not refer to any of the key issues of concern to the GCC. He did not refer to Iran's controversial nuclear programme and did not talk about Iran's intentions regarding Iraq. Nor did he refer to the three UAE islands that is under Iranian occupation.
The UAE has repeatedly called for bilateral discussions to resolve the outstanding issue or to refer it to international judgement. Tehran has consistently brushed aside the calls.
Kuwait has a maritime border dispute with Iran blocking the development of a gas field.
What Ahmadinejad did at the GCC summit was to put the cart before the horse. How could there be any talk about security and trade co-operation between the GCC and Iran before Iran assures its neighbours of peaceful intentions and settles territorial issues in an equitable manner?
The region needs to be assured of Iran's nuclear programme and Tehran's commitment to diplomacy to solve the dispute over the issue. Similarly, the region is anxious that the crisis in Iraq, a member of the Arab League, is addressed in the broader Arab aand UN context.
Tehran also has to move with seriousness to settle outstanding disputes with the GCC members, including the Iranian-occupation of the three UAE islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa and Iran's dispute with Kuwait as well as other issues that are sources of regional concern.
Only then there could be any move towards building a better relationship between the GCC and Iran. Ahmadinejad's speech did not move the ball from the Iranian court.