Iran has reiterated its claim to the sovereignty of three islands in the Gulf, dismissing media reports about a secret agreement between Tehran and Abu Dhabi to return the islands to the UAE.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said reports about a hidden agenda for striking a deal with the UAE over the islands of Abu Musa, the Greater Tunb, and the Lesser Tunb, are merely “media hues and cries”.

“Iran’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is not negotiable at all and no change has been made in Iran’s explicit and official positions,” she said.

The minister’s comments followed a report in the US-based Defense News stating that an agreement for the return of the strategic islands to the UAE was laid out during the recent visit of UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan to Tehran.  

Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, confirmed to the news agency that the two countries are close to an agreement.

“Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Tehran focused on the islands issue, and the Iranian side reacted positively,” he said. “Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif quickly came to Abu Dhabi to meet with President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan and meet with other senior leaders to further cement a workable agreement for the transfer of the islands to the UAE while Iran retains the seabed rights.”