Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Fujairah attack targeted all countries struck not just Emirates says Sheikh Abdullah

The minister’s made his comments alongside visiting German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed at a press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Victor Besa for The National
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed at a press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Victor Besa for The National

The attack on vessels off the coast of the UAE last month did not just affect the Emirates but all countries whose ships were sabotaged, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said on Sunday.

Speaking alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Sheikh Abdullah described what officials have called a “sabotage attack” on four vessels – two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian – off the coast of Fujairah last month.

“We expect that the UAE will continue, as Norway and Saudi Arabia have in giving the UN Security Council the details of the attack, to remain professional in keeping discussion behind closed doors,” he said.

Mr Maas’s visit comes after a series of attacks on UAE and Saudi Arabia that increased the long-standing tension between Iran, the US and its allies in the Gulf.

“It is vital to stop any spiral of escalation in the Gulf,” Mr Maas said.

The German diplomat praised the UAE for its considered response to the attacks off the Fujairah coast.

“We welcome, with regards to the recent tensions, your country’s response," Mr Maas told Sheikh Abdullah. "It has acted with prudence."

Mr Maas is on a regional tour to discuss Iran and will head to Tehran on Monday.

He arrived in the UAE a day after stopping in Iraq, where he raised the need for Germany to take an active role in mediation and not simply urge increased diplomatic efforts.

The pursuit of a “maximum pressure” on Iran will lead to a positive result, Mr Maas said.

He said Germany believed in “diplomacy first” when trying to de-escalate the situation in the region.

Mr Maas said he planned to inform Iranian officials that the EU rejected its ballistic missile programme.

“Germany has said numerous times that the role of Iran in the region is something that we see as problematic," he said. "The ballistic missile programme is problematic,.

The attack on the tankers took place in UAE territorial waters just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial transit point for global energy supplies shipped from the Arabian Gulf.

US officials said they believed Iran carried out the sabotage.

The attacks came days after the US said it was sending an aircraft carrier group and a bomber task force to the region to counter threats from Iran.

They were followed by attacks on a pipeline and pumping stations in Saudi Arabia, and a rocket that landed near the US embassy in Baghdad.

“We have heard from all sides that they don’t want a military response and to avoid misunderstandings, so we will advocate for talks and pave the way for everyone interested to be out of this escalation,” Mr Maas said.

He said he would convey this message to officials in Iran.

Mr Maas stressed the importance of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Germany is a signatory to the accord, out of which US President Donald Trump pulled Washington last year.

The minister reasserted Germany’s desire to save the nuclear agreement and highlighted the need for Tehran and Washington to “find a constructive way forward”.

“Iran’s role in Syria and Iraq is clear and the international community must involve the countries of the region when discussing the nuclear deal with Iran,” Mr Maas said.

Sheikh Abdullah said Iran’s nuclear deal must include “halting its support for terrorism and ballistic missile programmes”.

“We think that the countries of this region must become a part of the agreement, as their interests must be taken in to consideration,” he said.

The foreign ministers also discussed the peace deal in Yemen that was reached at talks in Sweden last December.

The agreement between the government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels includes a ceasefire and troop withdrawal in the port city of Hodeidah.

Mr Maas praised the UAE for its efforts in assisting the two sides to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“Your country contributed to the agreement and it was such a milestone in the political process,” he said. “We must not let this opportunity pass."

Mr Maas was in Jordan before travelling to the UAE, where he reaffirmed his country’s support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before the release of a long-awaited US peace plan.

“We are still in agreement that reaching a two-state solution through negotiations is the only solution,” he said, alongside the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi.

They spoke of the importance of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which the US wants dismantled after last year cutting off an annual donation of about $300 million.

Washington has convened a conference in Bahrain on June 25 and 26 to encourage investment in the Palestinian economy as part of the economic section of its peace plan.

Updated: June 10, 2019 12:14 AM

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