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“We did not engage in such behaviour at all. This is not how we operate and that’s not how we did (it) in the past,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told media in response to questions about the Iranian tanker Sabiti.
According to Iranian media reports, the Sabiti was hit by missiles off the Saudi Arabian coast on Friday. The National Iranian Tanker Company confirmed these reports but denied those of them that said the attacks had originated in Saudi Arabia, Al Jazeera reported.
In fact, Bloomberg reported, citing the Saudi coast guard, the Sabiti had sent a distress signal with a request for assistance. According to the signal, the crew said the front of the tanker was damaged and the vessel was leaking oil.
According to a report by Al Arabiya, the tanker is still leaking oil.
While international media were busy seeking confirmation of the initial reports, Iran’s President on Sunday warned the perpetrators of the attack that there will be a response.
"If a country thinks that it can create instability in the region without getting a response, that would be a sheer mistake," Hassan Rouhani said, but stopped short of naming any country in particular.
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It’s worth noting the attack on the Sabiti came as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a visit in Iran as mediator between Tehran and Riyadh.
"We do not want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We recognize that it's a complex issue, we recognize that, but we feel that this can be resolved through dialogue," Khan said. "But what should never happen is war between Saudi Arabia and Iran."
Meanwhile, oil prices reacted the way they usually react after news of this sort: they jumped on Friday afternoon even before the original reports were confirmed, with the spread between Dubai and Brent narrowing to $2.36 per barrel.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.