The world cannot afford a major confrontation in the Gulf, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Thursday, as the Security Council prepared to meet to discuss attacks on two oil tankers in Gulf of Oman.
The latest incident, the second in the Gulf of Oman in a month, came amid spiraling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger at Iran over earlier tanker attacks in May.
“I strongly condemn any attack against civilian vessels,” the UN secretary general told a Security Council meeting on UN cooperation with the Arab League.
“Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified,” he said. “If there is something the world cannot afford, it is a major confrontation in the Gulf region.”
US President Donald Trump “has been briefed on the attack,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “The US government is providing assistance and will continue to assess the situation.”
At the request of the United States, the Security Council was to meet behind closed doors later Thursday to discuss the situation in the Gulf.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned both the targeting of oil tankers and attacks against Saudi Arabia were “dangerous developments.”
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said they had fired missiles on an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
“Some parties in the region are trying to instigate fires in our region and we must be aware of that,” Gheit told the council.
He urged the UN body to “act against those responsible to maintain security and stability in the region.”
“The shipping industry views this as an escalation of the situation, and we are just about as close to a conflict without there being an actual armed conflict, so the tensions are very high,” said Jakob P. Larsen, head of maritime security for BIMCO, the largest international association representing ship owners.
Crude prices rose as much as 4%, a day after hitting five-month lows, after the attacks near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of global oil consumption passes.
Kuwait put its oil facilities under high alert following the incidents, and its foreign minister told the UN Security Council that the attacks are a threat to international peace and security.
France’s foreign ministry called for restraint and a de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf region.
“An escalation of the situation is dangerous, these are events that could lead to escalation,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
The attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday are a “major escalation,” the spokesman for the Arab Coalition supporting the legitimate government in Yemen said.