Thursday, 13 June 2019

Middle East on brink: Oil tankers attacked off Oman - warnings issued as torpedoes used



TWO TANKERS have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman amid growing tensions in the region.





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One of the ships, the Front Altair, was on fire after being hit by a suspected torpedo but the vessel’s owner denied reports it had sunk. The second ship, the Kokuka Courageous, is afloat but the hull has been damaged. The tankers have both been evacuated, with 44 crew members rescued.
It comes as the standoff between the US and Iran is threatening to reach boiling point.
A similar attack took place a month ago when four tankers were struck in the area, which Washington blamed on Tehran.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently visiting Iran in a bid to de-escalate the tensions
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Two tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman (Image: EPA)
Responding to the latest incident, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: "Security is of high importance to Iran in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East, in Asia and in the whole world. We have always tried to secure peace and stability in the region.”
And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that people should not rush to blame Iran, RIA news agency reported.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Britain is seeking to establish the facts of what happened while the UK Maritime Trade Operations, which is part of the Royal Navy, urged “extreme caution".
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It comes amid growing tensions in the region (Image: IRIBNEWS)
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The tankers have both been evacuated (Image: IRIBNEWS)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif branded the timing “suspicious” and called for regional dialogue.
He tweeted: “Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks.
“Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning. Iran's proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.”
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The incident took place in the Gulf of Oman (Image: EXPRESS)
Front Altair, owned by Frontline, was headed to Taiwan carrying 75,000 tonnes of petroleum product naphtha.
And Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement’s tanker Kokuka Courageous was transporting methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
The Gulf of Oman connects the Arabian Sea with the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which then runs to the Persian Gulf.
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The hull of Kokuka Courageous has been damaged (Image: BALTIC SEA SHIPPING)
It borders Iran and Pakistan on the north, Oman on the south, and the United Arab Emirates on the west.
Speaking yesterday after talks with the Iranian President, Mr Abe warned that any "accidental conflict" must be avoided.
He met Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today, for the second and final day of his visit.
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A similar attack took place a month ago in which four tankers were struck in the area (Image: GETTY)
Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Mr Abe's trip aimed to help ease tensions in the Middle East but not specifically between Tehran and Washington.
Iran is poised to break the nuclear deal which US President Donald Trump pulled out of last year, branding it “decaying and rotten”.
The accord, reached in 2015 by China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the US, saw Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of tough sanctions.


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