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China, EU Call for Restraint after Oil Tanker Attacks in Gulf

China, EU Call for Restraint after Oil Tanker Attacks in Gulf

Friday, 14 June, 2019 - 10:30
A handout photo made available by the Norwegian shipowner Frontline of the crude oil tanker Front Altair during the firefighting of the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
China and the European Union called on Friday for restraint after the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that countries should "avoid further escalation of tensions."

"We hope that all the relevant sides can properly resolve their differences and resolve the conflict through dialogue and consultations," he told a regular press briefing.

"This conforms with the interests of regional countries, and also conforms with the interests of the international community," he added.

“War in the Gulf region of the Middle East is something that no one wants to see,” he stressed, adding that Beijing will “continue to protect its energy security" and oppose unilateral sanctions.

The EU urged maximum restraint with a spokeswoman saying: "We have said repeatedly that the region doesn't need further escalation, it doesn't need destabilization, it doesn't need further tension.”

"We are gathering more information and we are assessing the situation," she told reporters.

The two tankers, one Norwegian- and one Japanese-owned, were set blaze in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran on Thursday, escalating tensions across the region and sending world oil prices soaring. The United States accused Iran of being behind the attack.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was strong evidence of Iran's culpability and warned Washington would defend its forces and allies in the region.

Oman on Friday said the Gulf country's marine security center had dispatched two navy vessels and a reconnaissance plane to help in efforts to rescue the two tankers targeted in the Gulf of Oman.

Japan's Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Friday he has no intention of sending Japanese troops to respond to the attacks on the Japanese-operated tanker.

The situation is not considered an imminent threat to Japan, he told a news conference.

The incident took place just as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up his high-stakes visit in Tehran to help de-escalate regional tension.

The Japanese ship operator said sailors on board the Kokuka Courageous, one of the vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, saw "flying objects" just before the attack.

The Japanese tanker carrying petroleum products to Singapore and Thailand was attacked twice while traveling near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, damaging the tanker and forcing all 21 crewmembers to evacuate.

Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could be bullets, and denied possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damages were above the ship's waterline.

Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but did not specify whether that was before or after the attacks. The tanker survived the first attack that hit near the engine room, followed by another causing damage to the star-board side toward the back.

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