Saudi Navy Warned to Keep Off Iranian Waters

Saudi Navy Warned to Keep Off Iranian WatersSaudi Navy Warned to Keep Off Iranian Waters

Iran warned Saudi naval forces, engaged in a military exercise in the Persian Gulf, to keep their distance from its territorial waters, denouncing Riyadh's naval drill as provocative and destabilizing.

"The naval forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps believe that the war game is an obvious provocative act to undermine security in the Persian Gulf," the IRGC said in a statement carried by Fars News Agency on Wednesday. "None of the vessels participating in the drill is allowed to pass through Iranian territorial waters. They are warned not to even approach the Islamic Republic's waters, because we would not consider it innocent passage."

Saudi Arabia began the naval exercise on Tuesday in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, which coincides with heightened tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

Commander of the exercises, Rear Admiral Majed bin Hazza'a Al-Qahtani, has said they are aimed at testing combat readiness "in preparation for the protection of the marine interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any possible aggression".

The Saudi kingdom and the Islamic Republic have been supporting opposing sides in the conflicts across the region.

A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March 2015 with the aim of preventing Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

A civil war has also been raging in Syria for five years between Assad's forces, backed by Iran and Russia, and armed insurgents supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other allies.

Tensions in relations between Tehran and Riyadh escalated after more than 400 Iranian pilgrims perished in a crush during the Saudi-run annual hajj pilgrimage near Mecca in September last year. The stampede happened when two groups of pilgrims on their way to perform the stoning of Satan ritual converged at an intersection in Mina, near Mecca. Riyadh has put the death toll at 769 while counts of fatalities by countries that repatriated bodies showed thousands of people perished in the crush.

Iran has complained that the Saudi hajj organizers have neither apologized, nor compensated the victims' families, and have refused to release a report into the disaster or allow an international fact-finding committee to conduct an independent probe.


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