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UAE ship 'seized' by Iran over fishermen deaths

Tehran says Emirati vessel violated its territorial waters on Monday and that UAE guards shot dead two Iranian fishermen on the same day
Iran said the UAE had expressed regret for the deaths and in a letter had announced its readiness to pay compensation (AFP/File)

Iran seized a United Arab Emirates (UAE)-registered ship violating its territorial waters earlier this week, Iran's foreign ministry said on Thursday, adding that UAE coast guards had killed two Iranian fishermen on the same day.

Tensions have risen between the two oil-rich countries, which face each other across the Gulf, since last week's agreement normalising diplomatic ties between the UAE and Israel.

"On Monday, an Emirati ship was seized by the border guards of Iran and its crew were detained due to illegal traffic in our country's waters," state TV quoted the statement as saying.

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"On the same day, UAE guards shot dead two Iranian fishermen and seized a boat… the UAE has expressed regret for the incident and in a letter on Wednesday announced its readiness to pay compensation," the statement added.

It further said that Iran had summoned the UAE chargé d'affaires in Tehran over the incident.

The UAE foreign ministry declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

UAE state news agency WAM reported on Monday that the Gulf state's coastguards had tried to stop eight fishing boats which had violated the state's territorial waters northwest of Sir Abu Nu'ayr island, without reporting any casualties.

Although incidents regarding fishing boats are frequent between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours, Iran warned of any aggression against its interests and citizens," saying in the statement: "Tehran will take all necessary measures to protect its vessels and citizens in the Persian Gulf."

'Big mistake'

The Iranian hardline newspaper Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Saturday that "the UAE has turned itself into a legitimate target for the resistance" following its deal with Israel, according to its website.

On the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called it a "big mistake" and warned "against opening the path of Israel to the region," without elaborating on what that would mean.

Rouhani's remarks were seen as "threats" by the UAE which on Sunday summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in Abu Dhabi to protest against "unacceptable and inflammatory" rhetoric.

The UAE, which downgraded its relations with Iran in 2016 amid fierce rivalry between Tehran and Emirati ally Saudi Arabia, said the remarks "had serious implications for security and stability in the Gulf region".

Despite strained ties, Iran and the UAE have longstanding economic links and the Emirates are home to a significant Iranian expatriate community.

Last year, Iran received a coastguard delegation from the UAE aimed at reviving maritime security talks.

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