Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States.
The announcement by the kingdom’s energy minister, Khalid Falih, came as the U.S. issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE’s regional allies condemned Sunday’s incident that targeted at least four ships, including the two Saudi tankers, off the port city of Fujairah.
The statement came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at Fujairah’s port. Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible.
The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. The U.S. is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.
Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the vessels. The ministry’ spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident.
Mousavi also warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners” to undermine the maritime region’s stability and security.
Tensions have risen since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring U.S. sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.
Falih’s statement said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday. He did not identify the vessels involved, say who was suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage or give any details about the other vessels reported attacked.
“One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” Falih said. “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
The kingdom’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement published on the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Monday, condemned the incident as a “criminal act” that threatens the “safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and international peace and security.”
Falih also said the attack aimed to undermine the “security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world” and emphasized the “joint responsibility of the international community to protect” the safety of maritime navigation and oil tankers.