(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, adding to accusations that are stoking tensions in a region supplying a third of the world’s oil.
The international community needs to take a firm stance against Iran after the maritime attacks as well as strikes on Saudi oil facilities and an airport, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with Asharq Al Awsat newspaper published Sunday. Iran has denied culpability.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Iran was responsible, and Washington released a video purporting to show Iranian naval forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the stricken ships. The U.K. said it’s “almost certain” that Iran was behind the tanker attacks. The Saudis provided no additional evidence of Iran’s alleged involvement, and the strikes are still under investigation.
While the U.S. and Saudi Arabia both say they don’t want war, tensions in the Persian Gulf are rising as American forces strengthen their presence.
“The kingdom does not seek war in the region but will not hesitate in dealing with any threats towards our people, sovereignty, unity and vital interests,” the crown prince told the Saudi-owned paper.
In an apparent show of force, the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Sunday tweeted what it said was footage of a joint formation of American and Saudi F-15 fighter jets flying over the Persian Gulf.
The tanker attacks threaten to curtail trade and hurt global oil markets, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Saturday during meetings in Japan. Saudi Arabia has seen increased demand from some buyers and has met their requests for more oil, he said.
Al-Falih said the same source responsible for a missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s Abha International airport on Wednesday was probably behind Thursday’s tanker attacks near the stin the Gulf of Oman near Hormuz, a narrow sea conduit through which the Middle East’s crude flows.
The Saudi minister didn’t mention a country or group by name in his comments during Group of 20 ministerial meetings in Japan. A missile fired by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels hit Abha International airport.
“The kingdom itself has also been attacked in the past,” Al-Falih said in the Japanese mountain resort town of Karuizawa. “Our energy infrastructure but also our civilian locations, like the airport in Abha where 26 civilians were hurt in a missile attack. We suspect it came from the same source as that that attacked the ships.”
Saudi Arabia will take every measure to protect its oil facilities, territorial waters, ports and ships, Al-Falih said at a meeting with his Japanese counterpart. The impact on global confidence in the security of supply is of more concern than the damage to the ships that were attacked, he said.
(Updates to add joint U.S.-Saudi sortie over Persian Gulf in sixth paragraph.)
—With assistance from Abbas Al Lawati.
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