Fire and smoke billows from a tanker after a suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019. (Photo by ISNA)
Hours after two tankers were reportedly attacked in the Sea of Oman, a flurry of international reactions poured in from various countries, companies, and political figures as well as financial markets, the gist of which follows.
Russia: Don’t use tanker attacks to pressure Iran
On Thursday, Russia warned against rushing to apportion blame for the suspected attack, and said the incident should not be used to stoke tensions with Iran.
“I would take the opportunity to warn against hasty conclusions, against attempts to lay the blame at the door of those we don’t like,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.
“Lately, we have been seeing a strengthening campaign of political, psychological, and military pressure on Iran. We wouldn’t want the events that have just happened, which are tragic and shook the world oil market, to be used speculatively to further aggravate the situation in an anti-Iranian sense,” he added.
The official was pointing to the United States’ campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic under President Donald Trump, which has seen Washington returning draconian sanctions against Tehran and trying to rally world countries behind its antagonistic drive.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov likewise said it was too early to draw any conclusions because of the lack of information, saying, “No one knows what is behind it.”
Oil prices hike, bonds droop
The incident spiked oil prices as much as four percent.
Brent crude futures were up $1.91, or 3.18 percent, at $61.88 a barrel by 10:39 GMT after rising as much as 4.45 percent to $62.64. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $1.42, or 2.78 percent, at $52.56 a barrel. Earlier, WTI had gone up as much as 3.85 percent to $53.11.
International bonds issued by the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council’s states were, meanwhile, weakened, pointing to apparent investor apprehension.
Saudi Arabia’s bonds due in 2049 were down over 0.6 cents in early trade while $3 billion in bonds issued by state oil giant Saudi Aramco, also due in 2049 , were down by roughly one cent on the dollar, Reuters reported. The Saudi main exchange, Tadawul, was also down 1.5 percent.
UN warns against conflict
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the [Persian] Gulf region.”
The UN chief made the remarks while addressing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.
“I strongly condemn any attack against civilian vessels. Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified,” he said.
During the same meeting, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the UN Security Council to act against parties responsible for the attacks to maintain security in the Gulf region.
“Some parties in the region are trying to instigate fires in the region and we must be aware of that,” he claimed without specifically naming anyone.
EU urges ‘maximum restraint’
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said the bloc was still gathering information on the incident.
“The region does not need further elements of destabilization and tensions and therefore her (Mogherini’s) call and our call continues to be for maximum restraint and to avoid any provocations,” Kocijancic added.
Germany stresses ‘de-escalation’
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described reports on the incident “extremely worrying,” adding, “These are events that could lead to escalation.”
“The news that we have received regarding the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman are extremely worrying. Therefore it is necessary to get reliable information in order to carry out a classification. The events are the opposite of what we need right now in the already tense situation in the region. This became very clear during my trip to the region and we made it clear to all parties involved that an escalation of the situation is dangerous. These are events that could lead to escalation. We need de-escalation and all sides must contribute to that,” he stressed.
“It is clear that acts of sabotage against trade ships or attacks against trade ships pose a threat to open trade,” Maas added.
France urges ‘restraint’ from all actors
France’s Foreign Ministry likewise urged “restraint and de-escalation from all actors, with whom we are permanently in contact.”
Spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll, meanwhile, stressed the need for respect for “freedom of navigation.”
“We call for restraint and de-escalation from all actors, with whom we are permanently in contact,” the spokeswoman said, adding, “We also recall our attachment to freedom of navigation, which must absolutely be preserved.”
Kuwait reports normal maritime operation
State-run Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC), however, said its vessels were operating as normal.
Cited by the state Kuwait News Agency, the company said it is ready for any emergency and has taken all necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safe operation of its fleet.
Tanker owner denies vessel sank
The owner of Front Altair, one of the vessels involved, meanwhile, told AFP that the Norwegian tanker was still afloat, denying reports that it has sunken.
The company’s chief executive, Robert Hvide Macleod, added that the 23 crewmembers were “all safe.”
The director general of Ports and Maritime Department in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, Allah-Morad Afifipour, also said none of the two involved tankers — one sailing under a Panama flag and another bearing the Marshall Islands’ ensign — had sunken during the incident.
The first tanker’s 21 crewmembers will return to the vessel after completion of required safety operations, the Iranian official added, and added that the second tanker’s 23 crewmembers were in perfect health and had been transferred to Iran’s Jask port.
Companies suspend bookings
Oil tanker owners DHT Holdings and Heidmar have, however, suspended new bookings to the region, Reuters said.
DHT has a large fleet of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) and Heidmar has a wide range of oil tankers.
One source said they had suspended offerings for their Suezmax vessels, capable of carrying one million barrels and their VLCCs.