China Maintains Controversial Stance on Iran-UAE Islands Dispute

China maintained its position on three Gulf-disputed islands, much to Iran’s ire over Beijing’s description of the islands under Iran’s sovereignty as an issue between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran.

China recently released a statement expressing its support for the UAE’s attempts to resolve the Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa island disputes peacefully.

Three strategically important islands in the Strait of Hormuz connect the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Iran and the UAE have had a territorial dispute over these islands for a long time.

The islands have a crucial role in regulating marine traffic, particularly oil tankers, due to their position in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran and the UAE place a great value on these islands despite their tiny size and scant natural resources.

After the British withdrew their soldiers from the Gulf in 1971, Tehran took control of the islands.

The Iranian foreign ministry called for the Chinese ambassador to Iran in a display of outrage over China’s continuous backing for the UAE’s assertions.  It came as a surprise to Iran because China is its major economic partner.

The Iranian foreign ministry said that the Chinese government is likely to change its position on this issue due to the strategic partnership between them. While defining China’s position on the subject as unchanged, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated on Monday its appeal for the UAE and Iran to settle their disputes.

During a normal press conference, Mao Ning addressed Iran’s objection and said that the relevant parts of the China-UAE Joint Statement align with the country’s viewpoint. She went on to say that ties between the two countries were solid and that China valued Iran’s strategic cooperation highly.

In December 2022, China and other GCC nations published a statement urging efforts to address the three islands problem, which irritated Iran. Although it was omitted from the most recent declaration with the UAE, that statement continued to emphasize the need to guarantee the non-proliferation of Iran’s nuclear program.