UAE joins US-led coalition to protect Mideast waterways

The Saudi oil installation attack Saturday has further heightened Mideast tensions. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

UAE joins US-led coalition to protect Mideast waterways

  • Creation of a maritime security force is to safeguard trade and flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz
  • The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran

DUBAI:  The UAE followed Saudi Arabia on Thursday in joining a US-led force to protect Gulf shipping as tensions with Iran soared following twin attacks on key Saudi oil facilities.

The US has pushed for the creation of the International Maritime Security Construct to safeguard trade and the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. It has so far been joined by Australia and Britain as well as Bahrain, the Gulf island state which is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

FASTFACTS

The initiative followed a number of mystery attacks on oil tankers and facilities in and around the strategic waterway.

The UAE hosts talks on Thursday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is on a Gulf tour.

Tensions in the region have risen.

The initiative followed a number of mystery attacks on oil tankers and facilities in and around the strategic waterway through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil passes.

Tensions have risen further since Saturday when twin attacks blamed by Washington and Riyadh on Tehran hit the world’s largest oil processing plant and a major oilfield in Saudi Arabia.

“The UAE’s accession to the alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade,” the director of its International Security Cooperation Department, Salem Mohammed Al-Zaabi, said in a statement.

Al-Zaabi said the UAE joined “in order to secure the flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to maintaining international peace and security.

The UAE is hosting talks on Thursday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is on a Gulf tour to discuss Washington’s reponse to the strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry which knocked out half its production.

The UAE’s accession to the alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade.

Salem Mohammed Al-Zaabi, director, International Security Cooperation Department

Pompeo described the attacks as an “act of war,” as Riyadh unveiled new evidence it said showed the assault was “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran.

Iran has repeatedly denied it was responsible, saying that the attacks were carried out by Yemeni militants as they themselves have claimed.

European countries have declined to join the US-led maritime force for fear of harming their efforts to rescue a landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and major powers.

Tensions in the region have risen ever since US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal in May last year and began reimposing crippling sanctions.


US accuses Turkey of war crimes in Syria

Updated 24 October 2019

US accuses Turkey of war crimes in Syria

  • Trump’s envoy demands explanation from Ankara of possible use of illegal white phosphorus munitions during the Turkish invasion
  • Envoy also expresses concerns about anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkish forces.

JEDDAH: The US demanded an explanation from Ankara on Wednesday for what it described as “war crimes” committed during Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, said there were concerns about anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkish forces.

“Many people fled because they’re very concerned about these Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces, as we are. We’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes,” the envoy told a House of Representatives hearing.

He said the US was also investigating the possible use of illegal white phosphorus munitions during the Turkish invasion, and wanted an explanation from Turkey’s government “at a high level.”

Jeffrey described Turkey’s invasion to drive Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters out of the border area as “a tragic disaster for northeast Syria.”

Meanwhile Russian military police began patrols on the Syrian border on Wednesday, following an agreement on Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back or face being attacked again by Turkish forces.

“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

In Washington, Trump said a US-negotiated cease-fire between Turkey and the Kurds would be permanent, and he lifted US sanctions on Ankara. “We’ve saved the lives of many, many Kurds,” he said.

Turkey considers the YPG terrorists because of their links to PKK insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a 30-km-deep “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.

The new agreement allows Turkey to control that area. On Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian fighters in Ras Al-Ain unfurled their flag on top of the Kurdish fighters’ former HQ.