Saudi Arabia calls for swift response to energy supply threats

1 / 2
A video released by the US Central Command (USCENTCOM) on June 13, 2019, reportedly shows an Iranian navy patrol boat in the Gulf of Oman approaching the Japanese operated methanol tanker Kokuka Courageous and removing an unexploded mine. (AFP)
2 / 2
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih at a meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers in Karuizawa, Japan. (Al-Ekhbariya)
Updated 16 June 2019

Saudi Arabia calls for swift response to energy supply threats

  • Energy minister Khalid Al-Falih's comments come as Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair heading to ports in the UAE
  • GCC adds to international condemnation of attacks on two oil tankers in Gulf of Oman

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia called for a swift response to the threat to energy supplies, two days after attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

"There must be a rapid and decisive response to the threat of energy supply, market stability and consumer confidence, which are posed by recent terrorist acts in both the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf, against the major global energy supply chains," Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said at a G20 meeting in Japan.

His comments came as the UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said the Gulf of Oman attacks and an attack last month on four tankers off the Emirates' coast  were carried out by a state-actor using sophisticated technology.

GCC Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani added to the chorus of international condemnation on Saturday, describing the attacks as a dangerous escalation and violation of international laws.

He also said that it was a direct threat to maritime safety and the world’s energy supply. He said that “this attack is a terrorist act that calls for the international community to respond quickly and decisively to protect international shipping lines in this vital region of the world.” 

 

US President Donald Trump said the attack had Iran "written all over it" and Saudi Arabia said it agreed with Washington's initial assessment that Tehran was responsible. 

On Friday, the US military released video footage it said suggested that Iran wanted to hide evidence that it was behind the attacks.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt the Strait of Hormuz - the narrow shipping lane into the Arabian Gulf through which one fifth of the world's oil is transported.

Iran on Saturday summoned the British ambassador to Tehran after London also blamed it for the attacks, the Students News Agency ISNA reported.
"During the meeting with Iran's foreign ministry official, Iran strongly condemned the unfounded allegations and criticised Britain's unacceptable stance regarding the attacks in the Gulf of Oman," it said.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued a statement Friday blaming Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for the attacks, saying no other state or non-state actor could have been responsible.

Meanwhile, crew members of the Norwegian-owned oil tanker that was attacked landed Saturday in Dubai after two days in Iran.
Associated Press journalists saw the crew of the Front Altair after their Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, landed in the UAE.

Earlier, the oil tanker left Iran's territorial waters and was under tow to the UAE, shipping officials said Saturday.
The Norwegian company which owns the ship said specialists would board the vessel on Saturday to assess the damage.

The other tanker that was attacked, the Kokuka Courageous, was heading to port Saturday, its owners said.

The Japanese tanker's Tokyo-based operator Kokuka confirmed the vessel was heading to the UAE.

"We still don't know if the tanker goes to Khor Fakkan or Fujairah as they are very close," said a spokesman.

Maritime experts would then seek to transfer its highly flammable cargo to shore, according to an unnamed official quoted by Japanese state media.

Earlier, Al-Falih said that he hopes oil producers will be able to balance the oil market before next year.
“We hope that we will balance the market before next year. We are working on it,” Al-Falih told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers in Karuizawa, Japan, when asked about the current oil market situation.
Al-Falih said earlier this month that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was close to agreeing to extend a pact on cutting oil supplies beyond June, although more talks were still needed with non-OPEC countries that were part of the production deal.


G20: India vows full support to Saudi Arabia

Updated 26 January 2020

G20: India vows full support to Saudi Arabia

On the joyous occasion of the 71st Republic Day of India, I would like to extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all Indian citizens and Persons of Indian Origin in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Republic Day is of very special significance to every Indian, wherever in the world they live. On Jan. 26, 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect, which declared India a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.

The Constitution of India provides basic fundamental rights to Indian citizens and assures them of justice, equality and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity among them. The Constitution does not discriminate against anyone based on religion, caste, creed, gender or any other grounds.

Republic Day is also the day on which India’s first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, was sworn in as the constitutional head of the country, replacing the governor general appointed by the British monarchy. Two-and-a-half years after India gained its Independence on Aug. 15, 1947, it transitioned into one of the biggest democracies in the world, fulfilling the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of freedom fighters who had shed their sweat and blood to secure freedom for our country.

Thus, the idea of India as an open, pluralistic democracy that supports a multireligious, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual and secular society emerged. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure, from the earliest times until the present.

The idea of India as an “epitome of the world” has been fascinating people since ancient times. Numerous inspiring accounts of visiting India were given by world travelers such as Fahien, Hiuen Tsang, Ibn Batuta, Alberuni, Ferishta, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo and several others.

Renowned American philosopher Will Durant described India as “the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages.” German Indologist Max Muller called India “the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow.”

In a modern context, India advocates a democratic and rules-based international order that emphasizes the equality of all nations, irrespective of size, population and military might. India adopts a consultative and law-abiding approach as its geopolitical role in the regional and global arena is increasingly recognized.

India’s commitment to transparency and market principles in its economic decisions, and its steadfast will to ensure that its economy is open and shares its resources and markets with its global partners, including the Gulf nations, makes it a favored economic partner for countries around the globe.

The numerous measures undertaken by the government to improve the ease of doing business — including the slashing of corporate tax rates, increasing foreign direct-investment limits in a range of sectors, and cutting red tape in decision-making — have, among other things, helped India climb to the 63rd spot in the World Bank’s rankings based on ease of doing business during 2020. 

In addition, India has made significant progress to achieve 52nd rank in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 and 54th rank in Bloomberg Innovation Index 2020 which implies that the culture of innovation is taking center stage in India. 

India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $64 billion in 2019 to touch a record $457.5 billion. India is self-sufficient in food grains with an output of nearly 284 metric tons last year. This year we expect to grow more food and take the total output to 291 mt, including 116 metric tons of rice and 100 metric tons of wheat. Despite a slight slump in India’s economy last year, the future looks promising. The IMF has projected that India’s GDP would grow at the rate of 5.8 percent in 2020 and rise to 6.5 percent by 2021, keeping India on course for a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.

On the foreign policy front, India advocates a democratic and rules-based international order that emphasizes the equality of all nations, irrespective of size, population and military might. India is in favor of comprehensive reforms of the UN Security Council and its expansion to make it more representative, effective and responsive to the geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

India’s deep commitment to the Indo-Pacific region based on our vision of SAGAR — Security and Growth for All in the Region — and its consultative and law-abiding approach on matters of global importance is widely recognized and appreciated. India continues to have comprehensive cooperation with the GCC, IORA, ASEAN and the African countries among others.

India’s bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia in modern times date back to 1947, when diplomatic relations were established between the two countries immediately after India gained independence. The bilateral relationship has evolved progressively into a multifaceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership.

The signing of an agreement between the two countries, during an official visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Kingdom in October 2019, to form a Strategic Partnership Council marks a new era in Indo-Saudi relations.

The leadership of both countries is keen to strengthen and expand the gamut of bilateral relations in diverse fields such as trade, investments and economic cooperation, infrastructure, security and defense cooperation, energy security, food security, health care, entertainment, civil aviation, tourism and culture, along with people-to-people engagement.

India has a robust trade and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is India’s fourth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade is worth $34 billion, which includes a non-oil component of $10 billion. Several prestigious Indian companies operate in the Kingdom and are participating in the development process underway in the country under its Vision 2030 program.

Saudi Arabia plays a significant role in ensuring India’s energy security by meeting its long-term energy requirements, supplying 18 percent of its crude oil and 30 percent of its liquid petroleum gas needs.

The Kingdom’s plans to increase its footprint in India’s downstream sector — including a partnership that proposes to create world’s largest oil refinery, taking equity stakes in existing refineries, and its decision to participate in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves — reflect the keen desire of both countries to transform bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbons sector into a larger strategic partnership based on complementarities and interdependence.

For its part, India is keen to contribute to the food security requirements of the Kingdom. Numerous initiatives are being explored in the fields of agriculture and food technologies. Greater collaboration in the areas of education, knowledge-based Industries, innovative technologies, and capacity building are being explored.

India has promised its full support to help ensure Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 is a great success. Nearly 150 delegations from India, including several Cabinet ministers, are expected to visit the Kingdom this year and engage with their Saudi and other international counterparts on a range of issues, including finance, infrastructure, health care, climate change, energy sustainability and food security.

I would be failing in my duty if I did not acknowledge the enormous contribution made by the Indian professionals and skilled workers to the economic development of the Saudi Arabia, and for promoting greater understanding between the people of the two countries.

I would like to avail of this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their strong support in elevating the bilateral relations between our countries into a strategic partnership, and for ensuring the well-being of the 2.6 million Indian nationals who live in the Kingdom.

Long live the India-Saudi Relationship.

• Dr. Ausaf Sayeed is the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.