Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 July 2019

UAE's Anwar Gargash urges restraint in the region during 'a very brittle situation'

Despite a turbulent week, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says the country is committed to de-escalation

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says the country remains committed to peace, despite recent escalations in the region that have increased tension between the US and Iran.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai on Wednesday evening, Dr Anwar Gargash, cautioned restraint rather than any further increase in hostilities.

"This has been a turbulent week even by the standards of the region but I think the UAE is very committed to de-escalation, peace and stability," Dr Gargash said.

"In these times we need to emphasise caution and good judgment, but it is a very brittle situation.

On Sunday, four tankers off the UAE’s coasts were victims of a “sabotage attack”.

The UAE did not immediately assign blame for the attacks but began an investigation shortly after the ships were brought back to Fujairah port.

The incident in a key shipping lane prompted wide condemnation and calls to guarantee the security of maritime transport.

Dr Gargash did not speculate on who might have carried out the attack, saying he would not jump the gun to make accusations.

"On the oil tanker issue, we are working with partners on investigations," he said.

“I won’t speculate on the famous question of ‘who did it’,” he said, adding that he would not know the details until the report was complete in the coming days.

“It's easy to throw about accusations but it is a difficult situation, there are serious issues and [foremost] among them is Iranian behaviour,” he said.

Riyadh said that an oil pipeline running across Saudi Arabia was hit on Tuesday by drones, as regional tension continued to flare. The Houthi rebels are believed to be behind the incident and celebrated the attack.

Dr Gargash said that the UAE is very concerned about the latest incident of Houthi attacks against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, saying that it showed the rebels are not interested in any Yemen peace process.

In response, he said that the UAE and the Arab coalition would “hit back hard” whenever the civilian population or infrastructure of a member was hit by the Iran-linked Yemeni rebels.

Tehran has denied having a hand in either attack, warning “against plots by ill-wishers” and urged regional states to remain vigilant "in the face of any adventurism by foreign elements", without identifying any state.

Iran has been accused by the US and the UN of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Tehran is caught up in a mounting war of words with the US over sanctions and the recent escalation of its military’s presence in the region.

Iran’s government threatened to respond to any military confrontation by closing the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s major shipping lane through which about 20 per cent of the world’s oil passes.

Just days before the attack, the US warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.

The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Washington should take "reasonable responses short of war" on Tuesday after it had determined who was behind the attacks on the oil tankers.

But Dr Gargash said that an "adult mentality" was needed in formulating a response. He said the UAE would always act with restraint.

"We're in this difficult situation because of Iranian behaviour and it is this behaviour that has led to the difficult situations that we see," he said.

US President Donald Trump received advice from some of his top aides that suggests sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked US troops, The New York Times reported.

The troops would also be sent if Iran sped up work on its nuclear programme towards what Washington would classify as progress on building a nuclear bomb.

But Mr Trump later described the report as fake news. He said he would “absolutely” be willing to send troops but had not planned for that, and if he was going to “we’d send a hell of a lot more”.

"I’m hearing little stories about Iran," Mr Trump said. "If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran."

Europe has split from what it considers to be Washington’s aggressive war-mongering and hard-line stance against Iran’s nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in the UAE has issued a notice on Twitter to its citizens, advising them to be vigilant.

Updated: May 16, 2019 10:52 AM

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