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.
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 that Iranian officials have denied.
Iran rejects US blame for tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman
Tehran has dismissed US accusations that the Iranian navy was behind attacks on tankers navigating the Strait of Hormuz as “baseless.” Iran said its vessels had rushed to help the damaged ships and save their crews.
After two tankers loaded with petroleum products were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, Iranian officials rejected US claims that Tehran was behind the blasts.
The US accusations were made without “a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter on Friday.
That the US immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran—w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence—only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy—including by @AbeShinzo—and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 14 June 2019
Previously, the US Navy said it spotted Iranian vessels near the targeted tankers and published a video that it claims shows Iranian sailors removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of one of the vessels.
US President Donald Trump said Friday in an interview with Fox News that the incident has “essentially got Iran written all over it… I guess they didn’t want the evidence left behind.”
However, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the Iranian navy came to “help” the ships and had “saved” their crews. He dismissed the US claims as “baseless.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned against assigning blame for the incident until a “thorough and unbiased international probe” had been completed. It added that the US’s “Iranophobic” stance had “artificially” fueled tensions.
“We consider it necessary to refrain from hasty conclusions,” it said.
UK: Responsibility almost certain lies with Iran
UN chief Antonio Guterres also called for an independent investigation, saying: “It’s very important to know the truth. And its very important that responsibilities are clarified.”
Later on Friday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Britain’s indepdent assessment indicated involvement from Tehran.
“Our own assessment leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran. These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region.”
“No other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible,” he added, calling on Iran to “cease all forms of destabilising activity.”
Trump administration providing ‘false’ information about Gulf of Oman attack, says Japanese tanker owner
The tanker seen in the black and white video released by the US Navy is the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous. While the US Navy referred to a magnetic mine, the head of Kokuka Sangyo shipping company Yutaka Katada said that “something seems to have flew in,” according to the ship’s crew.
“The crew members are saying that they were hit by a flying object. They saw it with their own eyes,” he told reporters in Tokyo. The impact happened above the water line. The crew took “evasive manoeuvres” but were hit again three hours later. There was no damage to goods and fuel, and it is unlikely that the ship would sink, Katada said.
“It seems that something flew towards them. That created the hole, is the report I’ve received,” Mr Katada said at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, the Financial Times reported. Mr Katada also described reports of a mine attack as “false” according to several outlets in attendance at the press conference.
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Jeremy Corbyn says UK government increasing threat of war without ‘credible evidence’ Iran was behind Gulf tanker attacks
Jeremy Corbyn has warned against blaming Iran for an oil tanker attack without “credible evidence”, as he claimed the UK government’s hard-line rhetoric risked escalating conflict with Tehran.
His remarks came after the Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – attacked the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this week.
“No other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible,” a government assessment of the situation added.
“Without credible evidence about the tankers attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.”
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry later added on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that it was important to establish independent evidence – a call made by the UN secretary general Ańtonio Guterres.
The idea that we are going to get enmeshed in another war is something that we really need to think about very carefully, she said.
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