Iran will respond with force to any threats to its territorial integrity, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday, adding that it would prefer to cooperate with its Arab neighbors to maintain security in the Gulf.
“The armed forces and the army will inflict heavy regret and shame in case of any aggression against Iranian lands and interests,” Ahmadinejad told military commanders and personnel on the occasion of Iran’s annual Army Day.
Iran “is ready to protect its existence and sovereignty,” he said.
Ahmadinejad did not explicitly refer to fresh tensions with Gulf Arab nations over a visit on Wednesday last week that he made to the island of Abu Musa, which is claimed by both Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
However, he said the key to lasting stability in the Gulf was regional cooperation.
“When it comes to the Persian Gulf, security is achieved only through the collective cooperation of all nations and governments,” he said, while lashing out at “foreign interference, which only causes destruction and division.”
His remarks came hours before a meeting of foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states in Doha to discuss the simmering islands dispute between Iran and the UAE.
Meanwhile, Iran has called on the West to first lift its sanctions if it wants to quickly resolve the showdown over Tehran’s disputed nuclear activities, a prospect swiftly ruled out by Washington.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi outlined his country’s message in an interview with the news agency ISNA on Monday, following milestone talks over the weekend in Istanbul between Iran and world powers.
Those talks, described by both sides as an encouraging revival of a process that had been moribund for 15 months, are now due to be developed in another, more substantive round on May 23 in Baghdad.
“If the West wants to build trust, it should begin with sanctions, because it can help speed up the talks reaching a solution,” Salehi was quoted as saying.
“If goodwill [from the West] is present ... we are ready to rapidly and easily, and even in the Baghdad meeting, resolve all issues” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, he said.