August 23, 2009 / 2:23 PM / 10 years ago

Saudi and UAE border in dispute over ID cards

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has stopped United Arab Emirates citizens entering the kingdom using identification cards it says show Saudi territory as part of the UAE.

The revival of a border dispute dating from 1974 comes after the UAE pulled out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monetary union project in May in protest at the choice of Riyadh as the base for a regional central bank.

“Riyadh ... has suspended the mechanism of using national IDs for moving between the two countries,” the Interior Ministry’s Passport Authority said in a statement carried by the Foreign Ministry’s website this week.

“Saudi Arabia has raised the issue with ... UAE authorities at the highest level, requesting that the UAE correct the map according to the bilateral border agreement of 1974.”

UAE’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday night that it was surprised by the decision and urged its citizens to use their passports when travelling to Saudi Arabia.

The two countries are the biggest economies in the six-nation GCC, which allows the bloc’s native populations to move across member states using national ID cards.

The 1974 border agreement was never ratified by the UAE’s Federal National Council, a quasi-parliamentary body.

The accord granted Saudi Arabia a 25-km (16-mile) corridor on the Gulf called Khor al-Odaid, depriving the UAE and Qatar of a joint land border. The UAE retained the al-Ain area, which Saudi forces tried to seize in the 1950s.

Saudi Arabia has objected to plans for Qatar and the UAE to build a causeway over the Gulf bypassing Saudi Arabia.

“The (Saudi) decision may further compromise chances to see the UAE back in the monetary union club,” a Riyadh-based GCC Secretariat official said on condition of anonymity.

“For the Emirates, this dispute kind of confirms their perception of hegemony by Saudi Arabia. The fact that the Saudis publicly spoke about it indicates that it can turn pretty nasty.”

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