Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, Dr Yousuf Al Othaimeen and Sushma Swaraj at the 46th session of the Foreign Ministers Conference as part of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: The UAE and Arab Group at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have called on Iran to stop spreading chaos and sectarianism across the Middle East.

Speaking at the 46th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Conference of the OIC at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on Friday, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said: “We reiterate our demands to our neighbour Iran to review its policy and to stop interference in the affairs of states, supporting groups that fuel conflicts and to stop supporting, financing and arming terrorist organisations that clearly violate our [OIC] Charter, the Charter of the United Nations and our Islamic values.”

Representing the Arab Group, Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs, said Iran continues to commit terrorist activities, flaring up sectarian sedition, supporting terrorism and occupying three UAE islands.

Al Jubeir reaffirmed UAE’s sovereignty over the three islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa, and reiterated the Arab Group’s support for all peaceful means and measures taken by the UAE to restore its sovereignty over the occupied islands.

Shaikh Abdullah also stressed that Palestine is a critical issue facing Islamic countries. And Al Jubeir reaffirmed the Arab Group’s position towards restoring all of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, Adel Al Jubeir and Dr Yousuf Al Othaimeen on the sidelines of the conference. Image Credit: WAM

Gathering amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Shaikh Abdullah said the OIC needed to have a stronger role in consolidating international peace efforts.

Shaikh Abdullah opened the two-day conference - which started on Friday morning - in the presence of Dr Yousuf Al Othaimeen, secretary general of the organisation, with the participation of 56 member states and five observer states.

The conference coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OIC, and foreign ministers will discuss a range of issues regarding peace and stability in the Muslim world, as well as integration and cooperation among OIC members.

The council will also discuss decisions related to economic, humanitarian, science, technology, legal, regulatory, media, administrative and financial matters, as well as the OIC-2025: Programme of Action.

India was a guest of honour at the conference in view of it not only being home to millions of Muslims but also for its stature in world politics.

Indian Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, offered peace and called for combating terror in her speech.

However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoud Quraishi boycotted the OIC meeting in protest over India being invited to the event.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated this week after a suicide bombing in Kashmir on February 14 that targeted Indian paramilitary forces. Both sides then claimed they had shot down each other’s fighter jets on Wednesday, and Pakistan subsequently captured an Indian pilot, who they released on Friday in a bid to diffuse tensions.

Al Maliki calls on OIC to further support the Palestinian cause

Palestinian Foreign Minister Dr Riyad Al Maliki said the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was first established to address the attack on Al Aqsa Mosque, and therefore its main responsibility remained how to protect and support the holy site and the Palestinian cause in general.

“This OIC meeting focuses on the Palestinian cause, especially as there is a tendency towards normalisation with the occupying state by some Islamic countries, which we have seen recently,” he said on the sidelines of Friday’s OIC Foreign Ministers Conference at Emirates Palace.

“We have seen some of the adjustments made in the United Nations by some member states against the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, and therefore there is a clear imbalance in the composition of this organisation and its membership.”

He said this issue would be addressed by many countries during the OIC meeting.

“We believe the OIC organisation is mainly established to support and protect the Palestinian cause, including occupied Jerusalem and the violated rights of the Palestinian people,” he added.

He expressed his optimism that focus would return to Palestine after this conference in the UAE capital, with the event hopefully helping to alert member countries to the nature of adjustments being made in the United Nations, leading to the possible rectifying of this issue.

“Al Aqsa Mosque continues to be subjected to daily violations by the occupying state and attacks by settlers to pray in it as attempts to Judaize and therefore there is hard work being done by the Palestinian people in Jerusalem to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic sanctuaries in the name of the whole Islamic nation,” he said.

He said he hoped this meeting would strengthen the Palestinian resolve and that Islamic nations would provide support to the Palestinian cause so that they can confront the occupying state with its actions in the holy city, especially with regard to Al Aqsa Mosque.