SIDES TRADE CHARGES OVER GULF TANKER ATTACKS
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The UNSC strongly condemned the recent attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Kuwait’s Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said Friday. All UNSC members unanimously called the incident a criminal act and violation to international law, Al-Otaibi stated to reporters following the Council’s consultations session on latest agendas regarding the attack in the Gulf of Oman.

“We would want to see thorough, impartial, and objective investigation to take place, and know who stands behind these actions,” said the Kuwaiti diplomat. He also expressed appreciation and support to UNSC’s stand toward the incident, and affirmed keenness to discuss the issue. Replying to a question on what went during Saturday’s session, Al-Otaibi said no proposals and decisions have been made yet by the Council to commission any particular body to carry out investigation.

Explosions ripped through two oil tankers, Norwegian and Singaporean, in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Friday for an independent investigation to establish the facts and who was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers this week in the Gulf of Oman. “It’s very important to know the truth and it’s very important that responsibilities are clarified. Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts,” he told reporters, adding that he believed only the Security Council could order a UN investigation.

UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Council meeting in Kyrgyzstan, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. He added that Guterres and his staff had been in contact with many of the countries concerned to tell them of the need to avoid any escalation. Guterres, who condemned the attacks on the tankers, was speaking on Friday alongside Arab League Secretary- General Ahmed Aboul Gheit after the pair met.

US President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but he also held out hope that implicit US threats to use force will yield talks with the Islamic Republic as the Pentagon considers beefing up defenses in the Arabian Gulf area. A day after explosions blew holes in two oil tankers just outside Iran’s territorial waters, rattling international oil markets, the administration seemed caught between pressure to punish Iran and reassure Washington’s Gulf Arab allies without drawing the US closer to war.

“Iran did it,” Trump said Friday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” He didn’t offer evidence, but the US military released video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting Tehran wanted to cover its tracks. By pointing the finger at Iran, Trump was keeping a public spotlight on an adversary he accuses of terrorism but also has invited to negotiate. The approach is similar to his diplomacy with North Korea, which has quieted talk of war but not yet achieved his goal of nuclear disarmament. Iran has shown little sign of backing down, creating uncertainty about how far the Trump administration can go with its campaign of increasing pressure through sanctions.

Denied
Iran denied any involvement in the attacks and accused Washington of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” of economic warfare. A US Navy team on Friday was aboard one of the tankers, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, collecting forensic evidence, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation. Apparently alluding to the US video, Trump said Iran’s culpability had been “exposed.” He did not say what he intended to do about it but suggested “very tough” US sanctions, including efforts to strangle Iranian oil revenues, would have the desired effect.

“They’ve been told in very strong terms we want to get them back to the table,” Trump said. Just a day earlier, the president took the opposite view, tweeting that it was “too soon to even think about making a deal” with Iran’s leaders. “They are not ready, and neither are we!” Trump last year withdrew the United States from an international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program that was signed in 2015 under his predecessor, president Barack Obama. He has since then re-instated economic sanctions aimed at compelling the Iranians to return to the negotiating table. Just last month the US ended waivers that allowed some countries to continue buying Iranian oil, a move that is starving Iran of oil income and that coincided with what US officials called a surge in intelligence pointing to Iranian preparations for attacks against US forces and interests in the Gulf region. In response to those intelligence warnings, the US on May 5 announced it was accelerating the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf region.

It also sent four nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Qatar and has beefed up its defenses in the region by deploying more Patriot air defense systems. Officials said that Pentagon deliberations about possibly sending more military resources to the region, including more Patriot missile batteries, could be accelerated by Thursday’s dramatic attack on the oil tankers. At the Pentagon, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Iran is not just a US problem. He said the US goal is to “build international consensus to this international problem,” and to ensure that US military commanders in the region get the resources and support they need. In remarks to reporters later, Shanahan noted the commercial and strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes about 20 percent of the world’s oil. “So, we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate,” he said. Insurance costs for ships sailing through the Middle East have increased by at least 10 percent after attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, with the potential for costs to rise further as regional tensions escalate, ship insurers said.

The attacks have already stoked concerns about reduced flows of crude oil on one of the world’s key shipping routes, pushing up oil prices by as much as 4.5 percent. Some tanker companies have already suspended new bookings to the Middle East Gulf. Freight rates for supertankers transporting oil from the Middle East Gulf to Asia were already close to a twomonth high on Thursday at nearly $13,000 a day, up nearly $2,000 from Wednesday. Every ship needs various forms of insurance, including annual war-risk cover as well as an additional ‘breach’ premium when entering high-risk areas. These separate premiums are calculated according to the value of the ship, or hull, for a seven-day period. Ship insurers say the biggest vessels sailing through the Gulf area face additional costs of up to $200,000 for a single seven-day voyage, roughly twice as expensive as earlier this week.

16 Jun, 2019 0 159
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