Riyadh announced on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers have been attacked and vandalised on their way to cross the Arabian Gulf near the UAE's territorial waters about 70 miles from the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for international oil shipments.
"The attack on Sunday was aimed at threatening the freedom of maritime navigation and the security of oil supplies to consumers around the world," Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said in a statement on Monday, without accusing any party.
He explained: "On Sunday, two oil tankers were hit by vandalism on their way to cross the Arabian Gulf near the UAE's exclusive economic zone, near the emirate of Fujairah." He added that "one of the two tankers was on its way to being loaded with Saudi oil from Ras Tanura Refinery, and then heading to the United States to supply Saudi Aramco customers."
The official continued: "Thank God, this attack did not result in any deaths or fuel leakage, while it caused serious damage to the structure of the two ships."
The UAE foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that four merchant ships of several nationalities were subjected to subversive operations near the territorial waters towards the port of Fujairah on the eastern coast of the UAE (70 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz).
The Ministry added that "the circumstances of the incident are being investigated in cooperation with local and international bodies, and the concerned investigation parties will announce the results when the procedures are accomplished."
The statement did not give details about the nationalities of the ships, but it followed a preliminary statement by the UAE denying the subjection of the port of Fujairah to explosions. Earlier this week, the United States announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier and strategic bombers in the Middle East after "indications of a real threat from the Iranian regime forces."
Amid severe tension between Washington and Tehran, the US-based Al Hurra TV channel quoted Acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan as saying "it is important that Iran understands that an attack on Americans or its interests will be met with an appropriate response."
Commenting on the vandalism incidents of the ships, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said in a statement reported by the IRNA news agency on Monday that the incidents were "disturbing and regrettable," calling for clarification of the dimensions of the incident.
Mousavi warned of "any malicious attempt by conspirators to undermine stability and security in the region," calling on "the countries of the region to be on alert for any attempt by foreign agents."
The Strait of Hormuz, a major energy waterway in the world, has witnessed a war of statements between Tehran, Washington, and Gulf states.
Iran has recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the vital waterway for international oil shipments, in conjunction with a US move to end exemptions from Iranian oil exports under the US sanctions against it.
Securing the Gulf region, through which waters nearly half of the world's oil supplies pass, is one of the tasks of the Fifth US Fleet in Bahrain.