Saudi Arabia on Wednesday sought to rally support among Islamic nations against Iran continued threats, demanding “firmness” over attacks on Gulf oil facilities ahead of three summits will set off in Mecca as regional tensions soar.
Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf blasted Iranian “interference” in the region, just hours after US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tehran was almost certainly behind oil tanker attacks.
The tough stance comes on the eve of emergency Arab and Gulf summits called by US-ally Saudi Arabia to discuss the standoff and ways to isolate Tehran amid fears of a military escalation.
“Tehran’s support for Huthi rebels in Yemen is proof of Iranian interference in other nations’ affairs and this is something that… Islamic countries should reject,” Assaf told a gathering of foreign ministers of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in western Jeddah city.
Assaf added that attacks on oil installations must be addressed with “firmness and determination”.
Two Saudi oil tankers, among four vessels, were the targets of mysterious acts of sabotage off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 12, and Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels have stepped up drone attacks on the kingdom — one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.
The four ships were attacked using “naval mines almost certainly from Iran”, Bolton told a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
“There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who’s responsible for this,” he said in a clear reference to Iran.
US experts are part of a five-nation team that is investigating the attacks off the UAE emirate of Fujairah.
The new war of words follows a US military buildup that includes the deployment of an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and 1,500 more troops to the region.
Bolton said that additional US forces were sent to the Middle East as a “deterrent” and that Washington’s response will be prudent.