Saudi calls for urgent Arab talks over Iran tensions

Riyadh Saudi ArabiaUpdated: May 19, 2019, 07:37 PM IST

File photo of Saudi King Salman. Photograph:(AFP)

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King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent 'aggressions and their consequences', the kingdom's official SPA news agency reported Saturday.

Saudi Arabia has called for emergency regional talks to discuss mounting Gulf tensions, saying Sunday that it does not want war with Iran but is ready to defend itself.

King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab League member states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent "aggressions and their consequences", the kingdom's official SPA news agency reported Saturday.

The announcement came days after mysterious sabotage attacks against several tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters and drone attacks on a crude pipeline by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels, which Riyadh claimed were carried out on Iranian orders.

The United States has also deployed an aircraft carrier and bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran.

Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, said Sunday his country does not want to go to war with Iran but would defend itself.

Saudi Arabia "does not want a war, is not looking for it and will do everything to prevent it," he said.

"But at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with strength and determination to defend itself and its interests."

The kingdom's regional allies welcomed the Saudi invitation.

The UAE's foreign ministry said the current "critical circumstances" require a unified Arab and Gulf stance.

The meetings will be a "significant opportunity for the countries of the region to achieve their aspirations for establishing peace and stability," it said.

Sabotage probe ongoing

Four ships including two Saudi oil tankers were damaged in mysterious sabotage attacks last Sunday off the UAE's Fujairah, near the Strait of Hormuz -- a vital maritime route for oil exports which Iran has threatened to close in the event of a war.

That incident was followed by drone strikes Tuesday by Yemen's Iran-aligned rebels on a major Saudi oil pipeline built as an alternative export route if the Strait of Hormuz were to be closed.

Jubeir said the UAE was leading the probe into the damaged oil tankers but added that "we have some indications and we will make the announcements once the investigations are completed".

The Emirates has said three Western countries -- the US, France and Norway -- would also be part of the investigation, along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

Neither of the two Gulf states, both close allies of the United States, have given details on the exact nature of the ship attacks.

Despite international scepticism, the US government has cited increasing threats from Iran, a long-time enemy of both the US and its regional allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

SPA said Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about enhancing security in the region. 

The US has already strengthened its military presence in the region, deploying several of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.

US President Donald Trump last week predicted that Iran would "soon" want to negotiate.