Published:  12:09 AM, 14 May 2019

Britain warns of conflict 'by accident' in Gulf

Britain warns of conflict 'by accident' in Gulf European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, speaks with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, second right, during a round table meeting of EU foreign ministers and Eastern Partnership nations at the Europa building. At center is Ro

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Monday issued a stark warning of the dangers of conflict erupting "by accident" in the Gulf, as tensions between the United States and Iran soar. Saudi Arabia said Monday that two of its oil tankers were damaged in "sabotage attacks" in the Gulf, with its arch-rival Iran calling for an investigation and warning of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

The region is already on edge because of the standoff between Washington and Tehran over the Iran nuclear deal, and Hunt said he would share Britain's concerns with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Monday. "We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side but ends with some kind of conflict," Hunt said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"I think what we need is a period of calm, to make sure everyone understands what the other side is thinking and most of all we must make sure we don't end up putting Iran back on the path to renuclearization, because if Iran becomes a nuclear power its neighbours are likely to want to become nuclear powers.

"This is already the most unstable region in the world and it would be a massive step in the wrong direction." The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities had been targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujairah. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the two tankers suffered "significant damage" but there were no casualties or any oil spill.

---AFP, Brussels

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