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UN urges probe in Strait of Hormuz crisis

June 15, 2019

UN chief Antonio Guterres has called on all actors in the region to "avoid a major confrontation." The US and UK have accused Iran of attacking tankers transiting through the Persian Gulf.

A man takes pictures of an Iranian warship in the Strait of Hormuz off southern Iran
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres late Friday called for an independent investigation into apparent attacks on tankers transiting through the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.

"We believe it is very important to avoid, at all costs, a major confrontation in the Gulf," said Guterres in New York. "At the present moment, we don't see a mechanism of dialogue possible to be in place."

The US and UK have accused Tehran of attacking tankers transiting through the waterways that separate the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, allegations which Iranian officials have denied.

Read more: The Strait of Hormuz: The world's most important oil choke point 

Map showing location of tanker attacks

'Reverse course'

Earlier this week, two tankers were hit by explosions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the apparent attacks were part of a campaign of "escalating tensions" being carried out by Iranian elements, warning that the US would protect its interests in the region.

Arab League Secretary General Aboul Gheit on Friday told his "Iranian brothers" to be "careful and reverse course because you're pushing everybody towards a confrontation that no one would be safe if it happens."

Gheit supported the UN's call for an independent probe, saying: "We believe that the truth needs to be clearly established in relation to these attacks."

Read more: Opinion: A Persian Gulf war can have no winners

Berlin calls for calm

Germany has condemned the attacks without assigning responsibility as it attempts to shore up support for the Iran nuclear deal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday the attacks represented not only a threat to trade but to peace in the region.

"We don't need further escalation," said Maas. "De-escalation is key."

Iran: no comment

Speaking at a meeting of Russian, Chinese and other Asian leaders in Tajikistan on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made no mention of the attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Rouhani said Iran would continue to scale back compliance with the commitments it made in the 2015 nuclear deal in the absence of "positive signals" from other signatories. "Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally."

Last month, Iran said it would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless world powers protected its economy from renewed US sanctions. 

Read more: Could Iran really close the Strait of Hormuz?

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Maas: 'No one wants war with Iran, and that's how it should remain'

ls/jm (AP, Reuters)