AFP: The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Tuesday slammed Iran's stance towards its Arab neighbours, particularly Bahrain, despite Tehran's interior minister saying a crisis with the small country was over.
MANAMA (AFP) — The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Tuesday slammed Iran's stance towards its Arab neighbours, particularly Bahrain, despite Tehran's interior minister saying a crisis with the small country was over.
GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah lashed out at comments by Iranian officials over Bahrain's sovereignty and at reluctance to resolve the issue of three disputed islands the United Arab Emirates say Iran is occupying.
"The positive stance of GCC countries towards Iran is a lot of times met with a hostile, unfriendly and unjustifiable stance by Iranian officials," Attiyah told a regional forum on security in Manama.
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli had told the forum "the crisis between Bahrain and Iran is over, but there never really was what you could properly called a crisis."
On Monday, Mahsouli had said "the relationship between the two countries is a warm and sincere one and will not be hurt by the mischief of enemies.
"Tehran and Manama will not allow anyone to cause divisions between them or to prevent both nations boosting relations," he was quoted by Iranian state television's website as telling King Hamad.
The minister said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants Iran to strengthen ties with its Gulf neighbours, particularly Bahrain.
Mahsouli also brought an invitation for King Hamad to visit Tehran.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa said Mahsouli's visit was "a generous step from the Iranian Muslim republic and neighbour that will strengthen ties between both countries," the BNA news agency reported.
King Hamad said he "appreciates this visit … and has pointed to the importance of reinforcing the fraternal relations and cooperation between both countries," BNA said.
But the GCC's Attiyah said that if Iran wanted to repair relations with its Gulf Arab neighbours, it should not interfere in their domestic affairs and should engage in serious talks over the UAE's disputed islands.
"The lack of response from Iran to repeated and sincere calls to resolve the issue of the three occupied islands weakens confidence between the two sides of the Gulf and does not serve efforts to boost security and stability in this vital region," he said.
In his remarks to the forum quoted by the Iranian television website, Mahsouli said "Tehran condemns foreign interference in the matter of Iranian islands. The islands are Iranian."
Iran and the UAE have a longstanding dispute over the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, which Tehran took control of after British forces withdrew from the Gulf in 1971.
Bahrain protested to Tehran after Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, a prominent member of Iran's powerful Expediency Council, was recently reported to have said the kingdom used to be Iran's 14th province and had a representative in its parliament.
That triggered widespread condemnation in Bahrain as well as from neighbouring Gulf monarchies and Arab leaders in general.
Iran moved to defuse the spat, which threatened a major gas deal between the two nations, by saying it respects Bahrain's sovereignty.
The relationship between Sunni-ruled Arab states in the Gulf and Shiite Iran has long been strained, with neighbours wary about the Islamic republic's nuclear drive and its close ties with the new Shiite-led government in Iraq.