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Saudi Arabia complains to the UN after UAE announces 'protected marine area'

In a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations, Riyadh accused Abu Dhabi of encroaching on its borders
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Riyadh on 16 July 2022 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has filed a complaint with the United Nations against the United Arab Emirates after Abu Dhabi announced that a contested maritime area between the two countries was a “protected marine area”.

In a letter addressed to the secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, Riyadh said that it rejected a 2019 Emirati decree declaring Al-Yasat a protected area, accusing Abu Dhabi of encroaching on its borders.

Al-Yasat, which consists of four islands - Upper Yasat, Lower Yasat, Esam and Karsha - was initially declared a marine reserve by 2005 decree, with the first artificial coral reef constructed around the islands. 

Saudi Arabia said that it does not recognise any measures taken by the UAE government in the maritime area off the Saudi coast.

The two Gulf countries have been locked in territorial disputes since the UAE's founding in 1971.

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In 1974, the countries signed the Jeddah Agreement, which saw Saudi Arabia recognise the Emirates as an independent state and cede part of its claims over the oil-rich Al-Buraimi oasis, an area located between northwestern Oman and the UAE.

In exchange, Saudi Arabia acquired the Al-Huwaisat Island in the Gulf and the revenues from the Shaybah oil fields, which extends into UAE territory.

However, the UAE has not ratified the agreement, disputing it since 1975 due to discrepancies between the oral and written agreement, and has tried to renegotiate the agreement ever since.

Over the past decade, the UAE and Riyadh have been close allies, venturing into the Yemen war together and jointly launching the blockade of their Gulf neighbour, Qatar from 2017-2020.

However, in recent years, Saudi Arabia's foreign policy has divereged from Abu Dhabi's as the two states have differed over Yemen and other regional issues.

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