Saudi Arabia denies involvement in Iranian tanker attack

Iran's state-owned tanker company denied reports the attack had originated from Saudi soil

epa07912416 A handout picture made available by Iranian state TV official website (IRIB) reportedly shows Iranian oil tanker Sabiti in Red sea near the Jaddah port in Saudi Arabia, 11 October 2019. Media reported that an explosion damaged an Iranian oil tanker traveling through the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia on Friday.  EPA/IRIB TV HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia has said it had no involvement in Friday’s attack on an Iranian oil tanker.

The National Iranian Tanker Company, which owns the Sabiti tanker, said its hull was hit by two separate explosions on Friday off the Saudi port of Jeddah.

“We don’t engage in such behaviour,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir said in Riyadh on Sunday.

“Besides, there are conflicting reports about this,” he said, referring to initial Iranian claims of an attack coming from the direction of Saudi Arabia, and the subsequent withdrawal of that accusation.

The kingdom it had been ready to help the stricken tanker, but the ship turned off its tracking system.

"An email from the captain of the Iranian tanker was received saying the front of the vessel had been broken, resulting in an oil spill," the official Saudi Press Agency said quoting the border guard.

"After analysing the information by the co-ordination centre with the aim to provide any necessary assistance … [the ship] shut off its tracking system without responding to the centre's calls," it said.

Saudi Arabia, it said, was committed to the security and safety of navigation and international maritime laws.

In early May another Iranian vessel, the Happiness 1 broke down at about the same location off the port of Jeddah and was repaired in Saudi Arabia, where it was held until its release on July 21.

On Saturday Iran vowed not to let the attack against the Sabiti go unanswered.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said clues had been uncovered as to who was behind what he called a "missile attack" on tanker, the semi-official Isna news agency reported.

"Maritime piracy and wickedness in international waterways … will not be left unanswered," he said, quoted by Isna.

The latest incident comes after a spate of still unexplained attacks on shipping in and around the vital seaway to the Gulf involving Iran and Western powers, as well as drone attacks on Saudi oil installations.

Washington accused Tehran of attacking the vessels with mines and to be behind the drone assault, something Tehran strongly denied.