News ID: 254424
Published: 0225 GMT June 17, 2019

EU unconvinced by US claim over Iran role in tanker attacks

EU unconvinced by US claim over Iran role in tanker attacks

International Desk

European states on Monday urged caution in attributing blame for last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman, pointedly refusing to fall in line with Washington's assessment that Iran was behind the incidents.

Several European Union foreign ministers arriving for talks in Luxembourg backed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' call for an independent investigation into explosions that damaged two tankers sending tensions – and oil prices – soaring.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was not a time to jump to action without proper information. “The maximum restraint and wisdom should be applied,” she said ahead of the monthly foreign ministers meeting.

Other foreign ministers said they were still looking for more information on who might be behind the incident involving the tankers. Germany and others insisted they need a clearer picture before wading into a diplomatic conflict which could have serious implications in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump has said the Gulf of Oman attacks had Iran "written all over it" and Britain has concluded responsibility "almost certainly" lies with Tehran.

Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed as "baseless" US accusations it was behind twin attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, adding Washington was trying to "sabotage diplomacy."

The US had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran – (without) a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet.

The EU has also called for caution.

"We know the findings of the American and the British intelligence services, which assume that you can be almost certain. We are comparing this with our information. I think you have to proceed very, very carefully on this," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

His Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto said it was vital to have "the full evidence" before reaching conclusions.

"I support very much the line of the UN Secretary General Mr. Guterres, that a proper investigation (to put) all the facts on the table and then we can look what really has happened, who is behind this," he said.

"I think it’s a very very concerning event but let's have all the details first."

Luxembourg's foreign minister echoed his support for Guterres' call, warning against repeating the diplomatic missteps that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I'm convinced, as I was 16 years ago, that you really shouldn't make the mistake of believing that you can solve a problem in the Middle East with weapons," Jean Asselborn said.

“I believe that the main task of foreign ministers is to avoid war,” he said.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero said: “We do think that there is room for finding a way for peace and stability in the world.”

A senior EU official last week said the bloc needed time to analyze the events, insisting this did not mean "that we're convinced or lack conviction" about the US assessment, which included video footage that Washington said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an "unexploded limpet mine" from one of the damaged tankers.

The latest flare-up comes with the EU scrambling to save the Iran nuclear deal after Trump pulled the US out and reimposed tough sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The top official in the EU's diplomatic service, Helga Schmid, made a whistle-stop tour of the region last week to gather information and press the bloc's call for restraint and de-escalation.

Thursday's attacks took place southeast of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital corridor connecting the energy-rich states of the Middle East to the global market.

AFP, AP and Independent contributed to this story.



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