UAE joins US-led coalition to protect Mideast waterways

The Saudi oil installation attack Saturday has further heightened Mideast tensions. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

UAE joins US-led coalition to protect Mideast waterways

  • Creation of a maritime security force is to safeguard trade and flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz
  • The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran

DUBAI:  The UAE followed Saudi Arabia on Thursday in joining a US-led force to protect Gulf shipping as tensions with Iran soared following twin attacks on key Saudi oil facilities.

The US has pushed for the creation of the International Maritime Security Construct to safeguard trade and the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. It has so far been joined by Australia and Britain as well as Bahrain, the Gulf island state which is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

FASTFACTS

The initiative followed a number of mystery attacks on oil tankers and facilities in and around the strategic waterway.

The UAE hosts talks on Thursday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is on a Gulf tour.

Tensions in the region have risen.

The initiative followed a number of mystery attacks on oil tankers and facilities in and around the strategic waterway through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil passes.

Tensions have risen further since Saturday when twin attacks blamed by Washington and Riyadh on Tehran hit the world’s largest oil processing plant and a major oilfield in Saudi Arabia.

“The UAE’s accession to the alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade,” the director of its International Security Cooperation Department, Salem Mohammed Al-Zaabi, said in a statement.

Al-Zaabi said the UAE joined “in order to secure the flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to maintaining international peace and security.

The UAE is hosting talks on Thursday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is on a Gulf tour to discuss Washington’s reponse to the strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry which knocked out half its production.

The UAE’s accession to the alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade.

Salem Mohammed Al-Zaabi, director, International Security Cooperation Department

Pompeo described the attacks as an “act of war,” as Riyadh unveiled new evidence it said showed the assault was “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran.

Iran has repeatedly denied it was responsible, saying that the attacks were carried out by Yemeni militants as they themselves have claimed.

European countries have declined to join the US-led maritime force for fear of harming their efforts to rescue a landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and major powers.

Tensions in the region have risen ever since US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal in May last year and began reimposing crippling sanctions.


From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.