May 16, 2019
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was hit by drones, the Saudi energy minister said, as regional tensions flared just days after what the kingdom called an attack on two of its oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.
The pipeline that runs from the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province to a Red Sea port was shut down, but Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih vowed that the production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.
The Houthis, who are at war with Saudi Arabia, said earlier Tuesday they launched seven drones targeting vital Saudi installations, without elaborating. They later claimed responsibility for the pipeline attack in comments broadcast by Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Sari.
In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, al-Falih called the pipeline attack “cowardly,” saying recent acts of sabotage against the kingdom were targeting not only Saudi Arabia but also the safety of the world’s energy supply and global economy.
The attacks demonstrated the increased risks in a region vital to global energy supplies amid heightened tensions following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and the subsequent re-imposition of US sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy. Iran has since said it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels by July 7 if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.
The Saudis did not immediately assign blame for the drone assaults, which targeted two oil pumping stations west of the capital supplying the pipeline that runs from the east of Saudi Arabia to the Yanbu Port on its western coast.
Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that attacks on two of its oil tankers and a major pipeline targeted not only its own security but that of the world’s supplies.
Drone attacks claimed by Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels shut down one of the kingdom’s main oil pipelines on Tuesday, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions after the mysterious sabotage of four ships, two of them Saudi tankers, just outside the Gulf on Sunday.
“The cabinet affirms that these acts of terrorism and sabotage … do not only target the kingdom but also the security of world oil supplies and the global economy,” it said after a meeting chaired by King Salman in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Tuesday evening.
Tuesday’s drone strikes hit two pumping stations on the kingdom’s east-west pipeline, which can carry 5 million barrels of crude per day and provides a strategic alternative route for Saudi exports if the shipping lane from the Gulf through the Stait of Hormuz is closed. AP/AFP
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