Published: Sun, June 16, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

With tensions spiralling between Iran and the United States, the European Union called for "maximum restraint" and UN chief Antonio Guterres warned against a Gulf confrontation.

The US accusations were made without "a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence", Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter on Friday.

Iran denied being involved in last month's attacks, and its foreign minister questioned the timing of Thursday's incidents, given that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

"Iran is pushing everyone toward a confrontation where no one would be safe if it happens".

Iranian-U.S. tensions began ratcheting up after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal a year ago between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from worldwide sanctions.

Tensions continue to rise over the alleged attack by Iran on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman as the USA military released video footage that it claims shows an Iranian military patrol boat approach one of the vessels.

"It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks", Pompeo announced.

While Iran maintains it has nothing to do with the recent attacks, its leaders have repeatedly threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world's oil travels.

Two tankers caught fire in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday after a torpedo attack.

The tanker was about 70 nautical miles from the United Arab Emirate's Fujairah and about 14 nautical miles off the coast of Iran.

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The tanker seen in the black and white video released by the US Navy is Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.

The owners said the 21 crew members abandoned ship after an incident on board that resulted in damages to the ship's hull starboard side. He described the ships as being hit in a "reported attack", without elaborating.

There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, which struck both tankers at the waterline.

In a news release, Iran's U.N. Mission said the nation rejected claims that it was responsible for the incidents.

"But it is also possible that hardliners in Iran are seeking to damage the prospects of any renewed talks between Tehran and Washington to ease tensions", said Soltvedt. Iran has said it would not start a conflict but would deliver a "crushing response" to any attack. Insurance costs for ships sailing through the Middle East have jumped by at least 10% after the attacks, ship insurers said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kyrgyzstan, reached out to allies seen as less susceptible to USA pressure, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

An Iranian official, meanwhile, accused Washington of trying to destabilise relations between Iran and the global community.

The Gulf of Oman lies at the eastern end of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel that is a chokepoint for more than a third of the globe's seaborne oil exports.

In London, benchmark Brent crude jumped 2.2 percent to $61.31 a barrel, while in NY, the United States standard, West Texas Intermediate, rose 2.2 percent, to $52.28.

"There are few actors in the world that have less credibility than Donald Trump and the Iranian regime, so even US allies at the moment are confused about what happened", said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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