The Iranian government has ordered MTN Irancell, the country’s second mobile operator, to extend its network coverage to Abu Musa and other disputed islands in the Arabian Gulf, according to a report from Zawya Dow Jones.
The development came after visitors to the island, which is occupied by Iran but claimed by the UAE, received text messages from UAE telco Etisalat welcoming them to the UAE.
Arash Karimbeigi, Irancell’s public relations manager, is believed to have told Iranian newspapers that Irancell has an agreement with Etisalat to provide coverage in parts of the Arabian Gulf that are out of Irancell’s range.
Reports that Irancell’s coverage does not extend to Abu Musa caused anger in Iran, with parliament speaker Ali Larijani calling for a “serious and public” investigation into the matter, the report from Zawya Dow Jones added.
Alireza Enayati, director of Persian Gulf affairs at the Iranian foreign ministry, told Zawya Dow Jones that the issue was “a technical problem”.
“The Iranian Foreign Ministry has given directives to Irancell to enhance the coverage over Iranian territories ... and not to fall in a similar mistake in the future,” he said.
Iran seized control of Abu Musa and two other islands in the Arabian Gulf, Greater and Lesser Tunbsm, in November 1971. The UAE has since repeatedly called on Iran to discuss the status of the islands.
Tensions over the islands escalated in April when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an official visit to Abu Musa, prompting condemnation from the UAE and other GCC governments.