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Riyadh urges swift action over tanker attacks

June 15, 2019

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the vital oil supply routes in the Gulf must be protected following "terrorist acts." G20 ministers have sought to downplay fears of possible disruption.

Still image taken from a U.S. military handout video purports to show Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous Tanker, June 13, 2019.
Image: Reuters/U.S. Military

Saudi Arabia on Saturday called for a "swift and decisive" response to threats to energy supplies in the region following twin attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

On Twitter, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih restated the importance of stability in the energy supply chain and oil trading markets, along with consumer confidence.

He described the twin attacks on tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman earlier this week as "terrorist acts."

Oil prices climb

On Thursday, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and a tanker owned by Norway-listed Frontline were rocked by explosions — incidents that quickly drove up global oil prices and shipping insurance rates.

Read more: UN urges independent probe in Strait of Hormuz crisis

Map of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman

Thursday's attacks followed the similar sabotage of four tankers off the UAE coast on May 12, which the Abu Dhabi government says was likely "state-sponsored" and not the work of terrorist groups.

The US has blamed the incidents on Iran,raising fears of a confrontation between the two arch-foes. Tehran has denied involvement.

The British Foreign Office said Friday that it was "almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military," the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, carried out the attack. In response, Iran summoned the British ambassador in Tehran on Saturday to protest the UK for "blindly and hastily following" the United States, according to the official IRNA news agency. 

The Saudi minister's comments were made at a meeting of G20 energy ministers in Japan, where delegates promised to collaborate to maintain stability in the oil market.

"The most important thing was that we have shared an understanding among energy ministers that we need to work together to deal with the recent incidents from an energy security point of view," Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters in Karuizawa.

G20 meeting in Japan
G20 energy and environment ministers are meeting this weekend in Karuizawa, JapanImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun/Y. Shimbun

Focus on Hormuz oil chokepoint

Both sabotage incidents happened close to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean that is often billed as the world's most important oil chokepoint.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the Strait of Hormuz as a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the US.

Doing so would disrupt oil and gas tankers traveling out of the Gulf region to global export destinations.

A third of the world's liquified natural gas and a fifth of the world's oil supply passes through the narrow strait.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose country is bitterly opposed to Iranian influence in the region, called on Saturday for a de-escalation in tensions.

mm/amp (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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