Tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman stoke security fears

 

Tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman stoke security fears

Dubai - The Saudi-led coalition, which is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, described Thursday's events as a "major escalation".

By Reuters

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Published: Thu 13 Jun 2019, 10:26 PM

Last updated: Fri 14 Jun 2019, 12:33 AM

Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman, driving up oil prices and stoking fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and that the US government would continue to assess the situation. Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world's oil passes.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, described Thursday's events as a "major escalation".
No one has claimed Thursday's attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the incidents as "suspicious" on Twitter and called for regional dialogue. Tehran has denied responsibility for the May 12 attacks.
Russia, one of Iran's main allies, was quick to urge caution, saying no one should rush to conclusions about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the UN Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States: "Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified."
He warned that the world cannot afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".
Council diplomats said the United States told them it planned to raise the issue of "safety and freedom of navigation" in the Gulf during a closed-door meeting of the Security Council later on Thursday.
"It's unacceptable for any party to attack commercial shipping and today's attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman raise very serious concerns," acting US Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen told the UN meeting.
Crude prices climbed as much as 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, and other Gulf energy producers.
"We need to remember that some 30% of the world's (seaborne) crude oil passes through the straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk," said Paolo d'Amico, chairman of INTERTANKO tanker association.
The crew of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair abandoned ship in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after a blast that a source said might have been from a magnetic mine. The ship was ablaze, sending a huge plume of smoke into the air.
The crew were picked up by a passing ship and handed to an Iranian rescue boat.
The second ship, a Japanese-owned tanker, was hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. Its crew were also picked up safely. However, a person with knowledge of the matter said the attacks did not use torpedoes.
The Bahrain-based US Navy Fifth Fleet said it had assisted the two tankers after receiving distress calls.



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