Eleven Middle Eastern and North African countries have accused Iran of sponsoring “terrorism” and constantly interfering in the internal affairs of Arab nations, sparking tension and instability in the region.
In a letter to the UN General Assembly circulated on Monday, the 11 countries cited Iran’s support for the Al Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Hezbollah militia group in Lebanon which has sent fighters to support the Syrian government.
They also accused Iran of supporting and sponsoring terrorist groups and cells in Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere.
The Arab nations reiterated a statement by Bahrain’s foreign minister in September that the only way forward is for Iran “to comprehensively change its foreign policies and end hostilities”.
The letter, organised by the UAE, was signed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen.
The 11 countries condemned Iran for sponsoring “terrorism” in the region, particularly in Yemen where they said Tehran is supporting Al Houthis financially and militarily by training their fighters and illegally sending them weapons and ammunition.
Yemen, on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been engulfed in a civil war since September 2014 when Al Houthi rebels swept into the capital Sana’a and overthrew the internationally recognised and legit government.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries began a military campaign against the Al Houthi forces, saying its mission served in part as a counterbalance to Iran’s influence with the Al Houthis following its nuclear deal with six world powers.
The letter was a response to a statement by Iranian diplomat Abbas Yazdani at the end of the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting on September 26.
He dismissed the accusations by the UAE that Tehran was supporting Al Houthis as “absurd and hypocritical”.
The 11 countries reaffirmed their support for the nuclear agreement, which capped Iran’s disputed nuclear activities in return for lifting international nuclear-related sanctions.
However, “unfortunately,” they said, since the deal was signed last year, “we have seen nothing but increased Iranian aggression in the region and the continuation of support for terrorist groups”.
“We remain firm in our resolve,” the Arab nations said, “that any interference by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the domestic affairs of Arab states is unacceptable and must be confronted.”
The letter also reaffirmed that the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa in the Arabian Gulf are an integral part of Emirati territory, and called on Iran to return the occupied islands to their rightful owner.
The UAE’s UN Ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, accused Iran of “fuelling the violence in Yemen, and in other parts of the Middle East”.
The 11 countries wrote to the 193-member General Assembly “to warn them about Iran’s nefarious behaviour, and to pressure Iran to stop funding and arming militias that destabilise our region”, she said in a statement.