May 23, 2019
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After ships sabotaged, Arab countries seek international involvement

Riyadh, May 13 (efe-epa).- The Saudi Arabian government and other Arab countries called on the international community on Monday to asssume their responsibilities and guarantee the safety of maritime routes and commercial shipping after several vessels were sabotaged at a time of growing tension in the Persian Gulf.

Just three days after the United States Maritime Authority warned about possible acts of sabotage by Iran or its local intermediaries against commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported Sunday the sabotage of four ships east of the emirate of Fujairah.

The minister of Saudi energy, industry and mineral resources, Khalid al-Falih, reported Monday that two Saudi tankers were sabotaged in the area.

In his statement published through the official Saudi media, the minister noted that there was "significant damage," which he did not specify though he said no one was killed.

"Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels," the minister said.

Al-Falih believed the attack was an attempt to undermine the freedom and security of maritime navigation in supplying oil to consumers around the world.

For that reason, he spoke of the "shared responsibility" of the international community to protect the security of navigation and the safety of tanker ships.

According to al-Falih, one of the vessels was sabotaged as it was going to take on a shipment of Saudi petroleum at the port of Ras Tanura, which it would later deliver to clients of the state-run oil company Saudi Aramco in the United States.

The incident and consequent reactions came at a time when the United States was sending to the area the USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear aircraft carrier of the Nimitz class, and the USS Arlington amphibious warship, as well as a Patriot missile defense battery and bombers.

The dispatch of these forces, according to the Pentagon, was due to indications that Iran is getting ready to carry out offensive operations in the region, something Tehran denies.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region," the Pentagon said in a statement last Friday.

Last Thursday the US Maritime Administration warned of possible attacks against commercial shipping including oil tankers and US Navy vessels in the Red Sea, the strait of Bab al-Mandab and the Persian Gulf.

Coincidence or not, what is certain is that the report of the attack has led Saudis and the UAE to seek international involvement at a time of increasingly tense relations with Iran that began when the United States announced last April the end of exemptions that had allowed certain countries to buy Iranian crude.

UAE authorities called on the international community on Sunday to assume their responsibilities to ward off acts of sabotage such as the ones perpetrated by those trying to undermine the security of maritime traffic, a veiled reference to Iran.

Emirate Foreign Vice Minister Anwar Gargash said Monday on Twitter that investigations into the attack are being done "professionally, and all the facts will be revealed."

He said "the UAE received great support following the deliberate sabotage of four vessels in our territorial waters. This is the result of the UAE's positive attitudes and support for peace and stability worldwide."

The head of the Arab League also reacted by calling these acts a "serious violation of the freedom and integrity of trade and maritime transport routes."

The secretary general of the pan-Arab association, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, condemned these "criminal attacks," saying that threats against the land or sea borders of any member nation of the league is an unacceptable violation of Arab national security.

The political analyst of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Hisham al-Ghannam, called the incidents "a dangerous escalation, but up to now there's nobody to accuse."

However, the analyst from the center for Saudi thought told EFE that "the Iranian style and way of doing things are all to evident, and can be seen in an attack like this, as well as in the celebration of some Iranian officials and of the media affiliated with Iran."

"This is an alarming, worrying act," he added.

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