UAE and Arab countries ‘working to ensure freedom of navigation’ in region’s waters

Jordanian King Abdullah II (R), accompanied by his son Crown Prince Hussein (L) being received by the UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (C), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, upon the former’s arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport. (AFP/Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan)
Updated 23 May 2019

UAE and Arab countries ‘working to ensure freedom of navigation’ in region’s waters

  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed makes comments as he meets Jordan's King Abdullah
  • UAE says international participation in an investigation into ‘sabotage attacks’ on oil tankers will lead to ‘impartial conclusions’

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said Wednesday the UAE is working with Arab countries to guarantee the freedom of navigation for ships in the region.
He was speaking after the UAE said earlier that the participation of several countries in an investigation into last week’s attack on oil tankers off its coast would support the “impartiality and transparency” of the findings.




Jordanian King Abdullah II (L) and his son Crown Prince Hussein (R) meeting with the UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (C), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, in Abu Dhabi. (AFP/Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan)

Abu Dhabi has not yet blamed anyone for the acts of sabotage on four vessels including two Saudi oil tankers, but a senior UAE official has said Abu Dhabi was concerned about Iranian behavior in the region.
Speaking as he met Jordan’s King Abdullah in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE was closely co-ordinating with Jordan on the current regional developments to “ensure security and stability in the region,” state news agency WAM reported.




Jordanian King Abdullah II (L) meeting with the UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, in Abu Dhabi. (AFP/Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan)

King Abdullah said the security of the UAE and Gulf region is an integral part of Jordan’s security. The two countries will also conduct joint military exercises in the foreseeable future.
The investigation is continuing into the attacks on the tankers off the coast of the UAE emirate Fujairah. The US and France, which has a naval base in Abu Dhabi, are participating in the probe as well as Saudi Arabia and Norway.




Jordanian King Abdullah II (C), accompanied by his son Crown Prince Hussein (R) being received by the UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (L), Crown Prince of Abu, in Abu Dhabi. (AFP/Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan)

The UAE said earlier on Wednesday that the participation of several countries in the investigation would support the "impartiality and transparency" of the findings.
“The keenness of our international partners to participate in the investigation and the concerted efforts support the impartiality and transparency in arriving at results,” the UAE foreign ministry said.
US government sources told Reuters they believe Iran encouraged Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia or Iraq-based militias to carry out the operation.
Tehran has distanced itself from the attack, which comes as Iran and the United States spar over sanctions and the US military presence in the Gulf region.
The UAE foreign ministry welcomed the participation of several “friendly and brotherly” countries in the investigation, but did not name them. It did not give a timeframe, saying the probe would take “the time required.”




Jordanian King Abdullah II (C) being received by the UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (R), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, upon the former’s arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport. (AFP/Jordanian Royal Palace/Yousef Allan)

A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker and a UAE fuel bunker barge were among the vessels hit in an area that serves as one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has said Abu Dhabi would show restraint after the attack and that it was committed to de-escalation during what he described as a “difficult situation” caused by Iranian behavior in the region.
Saudi Arabia has called for emergency Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30 to discuss the implications of the tanker attack and an armed drone strike two days later on Saudi oil installations in the Kingdom, for which the Houthis have claimed responsibility.


Iran dissidents urge vote boycott as leaders eye high turnout

Updated 3 min 40 sec ago

Iran dissidents urge vote boycott as leaders eye high turnout

  • The country’s supreme leader has urged Iranians to “disappoint the enemy” by participating en masse in the vote on Friday
  • Opponents outside Iran argue that the government’s pressure on citizens to vote means that anyone who casts their ballot is effectively legitimising the system

PARIS: Opponents of Iran’s theocratic leadership are urging an outright boycott of its parliamentary elections, arguing that it is anything but democratic and that casting a ballot serves only to bolster the country’s Islamic rulers.
The country’s supreme leader has urged Iranians to “disappoint the enemy” by participating en masse in the vote on Friday, which coincides with one of the most testing periods for the country since the ousting of the pro-US shah in 1979.
“Participating in elections and voting... is a religious duty” that will strengthen the Islamic republic against the “propaganda” of its enemies, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday.
Analysts say Iran’s leaders want to see a high turnout to bolster their legitimacy as they battle an economic crisis spurred by crippling American sanctions imposed after Washington abandoned the 2015 deal curtailing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The crisis prompted some of the most potent protests since the Revolution and the ferocious crackdown that followed.
The elections have been overshadowed by mass disqualifications of over 7,000 mainly moderate and reformist candidates by the Guardian Council oversight body.
The council threw out more candidates than it allowed in, including most incumbent MPs.
In a message from her jail cell, posted on her husband’s Facebook page, Iranian rights activist Narges Mohammadi said a boycott of the elections was the only peaceful means of protest left now that demonstrations are no longer being authorized.
“We need to rise up in the most civilized way and launch a strong boycott campaign to respond to the repressive policies of the government,” wrote Mohammadi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for “forming and managing an illegal group.”
Opponents outside Iran argue that the government’s pressure on citizens to vote means that anyone who casts their ballot is effectively legitimising the system.
Masih Alinejad, a former journalist who has left the country and leads a campaign against the enforced Islamic headscarf for women, has issued a viral video on social media warning that voting overlooks the memory of those killed in the protests.
While officials tell everyone to vote for the sake of the country, “the day after the election, it’s back to normal — the establishment claims the votes gave the Islamic regime legitimacy, and all promises of greater freedoms are forgotten,” she told AFP from New York.
“The candidates are pre-selected, no opposition views are tolerated and even the turnout is stage-managed,” she said, adding that instead of voting, people should demand a UN investigation into the November protests.
Amnesty International has confirmed the deaths of 300 people in the crackdown that followed those protests, and some estimates are far higher.
Iran rejects the reports but has yet to give its own figures.
Tehran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner in January, killing all 176 on board, sparked more protests, at the very moment when the authorities were seeking to consolidate national sentiment following the US killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani.
Underlining the importance of mass participation, Khamenei said in a speech on February 5 that “the enemies who threaten the country and the nation are more afraid of popular support than our armaments.”
Turnout has varied widely in Iranian parliamentary elections over the past decades, but has generally been recorded at more than 50 percent and sometimes topping 60 percent — a figure the authorities will want to see repeated on Friday.
While the leadership should be able to count on a reasonable turnout from supporters of conservatives and in more rural areas, it is not certain how many will vote in bigger cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and even the holy city of Mashhad, said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“The question mark is over the bigger urban cities,” she told AFP.
In any case, conservatives — or “principalists,” who are themselves split between different factions — will likely dominate the next parliament after the disqualification of reformists, which risks putting off many voters.
“The scale of disqualifications and what many see as a lack of competitive choice for the Iranian electorate may result in much lower voter participation in the urban areas relative to the last election,” Geranmayeh said.
On the other hand, “supporters of the principalists are expected to turn out and vote. We should not underestimate their numbers. They have also been galvanized by recent events including the killing of Soleimani,” she said.