Singapore concerned over rising tensions in Middle East after tanker, airport attacks: MFA

An Iranian navy boat trying to control fire from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, which is said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019.
An Iranian navy boat trying to control fire from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, which is said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019.PHOTO: TASNIM NEWS / AFP

SINGAPORE - Singapore is deeply concerned about the rising tensions in the Middle East and condemns the two attacks this week in the region which targeted commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman and an international airport in Saudi Arabia.

In a statement issued on Friday (June 14), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Singapore condemns the attacks on Thursday that left two tankers ablaze - the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous - and forced their crews to abandon the vessels.

"It is imperative that sea lines of communication remain open, secure and free for navigation, in accordance with international law," the statement said.

Singapore also condemns a separate aerial attack on the Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia's south on Wednesday that was claimed by the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The ministry's statement noted that the attack resulted in a number of civilian casualties and endangered civil aviation.

The Yemeni rebel group said the attack was launched using a cruise missile, while the Saudi authorities said 26 people have been wounded as a result of the assault.

Since March 2015, the Iran-aligned rebels have faced heavy bombing from a Saudi-led coalition backed by Western forces that intervened in support of the Yemeni government when the rebels seized parts of the country.

The rebels have in recent weeks ramped up their attacks across the border, deepening a conflict that has already killed tens of thousands of people.

The tanker attacks on Thursday have ratcheted up tensions between United States and Iran, with Washington blaming Iran for the attacks and Teheran dismissing the accusations as "baseless".

The ministry said Singapore is deeply concerned about rising tensions in the Middle East region. "We urge all parties to exercise restraint in order to avoid further escalation," the statement added.


The European Union and China on Friday also called for restraint amid the mounting tensions. 

“We have said repeatedly that the region doesn’t need further escalation, it doesn’t need destabilisation, it doesn’t need further tension and therefore we call for maximum restraint and to avoid provocations,” Reuters cited a spokesman for the EU’s foreign service as telling reporters.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular briefing in Beijing urged that differences be resolved through dialogue.  

“Nobody wants to see war in the Gulf. That is not in anyone’s interest,” Mr Geng was quoted saying by Reuters. He added that he hoped all relevant parties would remain calm and exercise restraint.

The Oman TV News website cited a Foreign Ministry source as saying the country is also following with “great concern the military escalation” in Yemen’s war and the missile strike on Abha airport, Reuters reported.

But Britain said it stood by its closest ally the United States. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio that Britain would make its own independent assessment, but that it had “ no reason not to believe the American assessment” that Iran was responsible for attacks.