G7 countries condemn attack on Mercer Street tanker off Oman, blame Iran

Lapid praises response, insisting Tehran a global problem, not just an Israeli one; Gantz thanks Lloyd Austin for US leadership in effort, which was needed to bring Japan onboard

Tugboats are moored next to the Israeli-linked tanker MT Mercer Street, off the Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates, on August 3, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)
Tugboats are moored next to the Israeli-linked tanker MT Mercer Street, off the Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates, on August 3, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

The Group of Seven leading industrialized countries on Friday jointly condemned last week’s attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea and said evidence indicated Iran was behind the incident.

The HV Mercer Street was struck off the coast of Oman on July 29, killing two people — a Romanian and a British national.

“We condemn the unlawful attack committed on a merchant vessel,” the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States of America said in a joint statement.

“This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law,” they added. “All available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack.”

The ship is managed by a firm owned by an Israeli billionaire, and Israel — along with the US and Britain — had already pointed the finger at Tehran. Iran has denied being involved.

In their statement, the G-7 countries said “Iran’s behavior, alongside its support to proxy forces and non-state armed actors, threatens international peace and security.”

“We call on Iran to stop all activities inconsistent with relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and call on all parties to play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace,” they said.

From Left, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni, Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe, President of the World Bank David Malpass, Italy’s Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco, France’s Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva, Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann, and Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso pose for a family photo the second day of the G7 Finance Ministers Meeting, at Lancaster House in London on June 5, 2021. (HENRY NICHOLLS / POOL / AFP)

The ministers called for vessels in the region to be able to “navigate freely in accordance with international law.”

“We will continue to do our utmost to protect all shipping, upon which the global economy depends, so that it is able to operate freely and without being threatened by irresponsible and violent acts,” they added.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid praised the “important statement from the G7,” tweeting that “Iran was behind the attack on Mercer Street, just as it’s been behind multiple terror attacks across the world.

“Iran isn’t just an Israeli problem, it’s a global problem. It’s time for the world to hold the Iranian regime to account,” the foreign minister said.

Also on Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke on the phone with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, thanking the Biden administration for its “leadership in the actions taken so far, including the rapid investigation and public condemnation of Iranian aggression,” according to the Israeli readout.

The Axios news site reported that US pressure led to the publishing of the G7 statement, after Japan held out on signing on for several days.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates in a news conference with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait City, Kuwait, July 29, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

In addition to being managed by an Israeli firm, the Mercer Street was owned by a Japanese company, and Tokyo feared that joining the G7 statement would lead to retaliation from Iran, with whom it holds extensive economic ties, Axios said.

It took several days of US consultations with their Japanese counterparts, including a call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japan Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi until Tokyo agreed to fall in line.

Also in Friday’s phone call between Gantz and Austin, the former minister said “that additional action must be taken in order to thwart Iranian malign activities, including its nuclear program and attacks in the region and in particular its use of UAVs and missiles.”

The defense minister highlighted the recent inauguration of ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi as the new president of Iran, saying that it “points to the even more extremist and fundamentalist direction that Iran is taking.”

Meanwhile, the US Army’s Central Command published the findings of its investigation into the deadly attack, which determined that the drone that struck the Mercer Street was produced by Iran.

The report said explosive experts were able to recover several pieces from the UAV that struck the ship “and internal components which were nearly identical to previously collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs. The distances from the Iranian coast to the locations of the attacks was within the range of documented Iranian one-way attack UAVs.”

The findings were shared with UK and Israeli explosive experts and “both partners concurred with the US findings,” the CENTCOM report said.

However, while the report concluded that the drone was made in Iran, it did not specify that Iran was the party controlling it when it crashed into the Mercer Street.

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