Lawmaker: Saudi insistence on holding Iranian oil tanker stokes tension 

July 6, 2019 - 18:46

TEHRAN - An Iranian lawmaker said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia's persistence in continued seizure of an Iranian oil tanker is stirring tensions in the region.

"Saudi Arabia should not be after tensions in the Persian Gulf and among the neighbors through the continued holding of the Iranian oil tanker in Jeddah port. Tensions among the Persian Gulf littoral states do not benefit any country and only favor the West," said Ali Bakhtiar, a senior member of the Iranian parliament's Energy Commission.

He advised the Persian Gulf littoral states to choose the path of interaction instead of confrontation and avoid being fooled by the U.S., as tension in the region will trouble them themselves.

On May 2, Saudi Arabia announced its coast guard had rescued a distressed Iranian oil tanker, named Happiness I, with 26 on board off the Red Sea port of Jeddah, after it faced "engine failure and the loss of control".

Two months on, despite being fixed, Saudis are refusing to let the vessel leave, and at the same time charge Iran $200,000 a day for maintaining the vessel in Jeddah.

Iranian officials say the incident occurred on April 30 while Happiness I was on its way to the Suez Canal and that water had leaked into the tanker’s engine room.

It has been reported that all 26 crew members, including 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, were safe and that all necessary precautions were taken to avoid any environmental damage.

The reports did not specify the crew members’ current location and did not elaborate on whether oil had spilled from the tanker.

But the state-run National Iranian Tanker Co. said there had been no leak of the ship's contents into the Red Sea.

The TankerTrackers monitoring group estimated the vessel was carrying up to 1.22 million barrels of crude oil.