13 August 2019 - 00:23
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code 83434864
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Zarif says US arms sales make Persian Gulf into 'tinderbox ready to blow up'

Tehran, Aug 12, IRNA - Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif warned against an arms race in the Middle East, saying the recent US weapons sales have turned the Persian Gulf region into a "tinderbox ready to blow up".

In an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday, Zarif said more warships in the Persian Gulf would only lead to more insecurity.

"The US [sold] $50bn worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87bn on military procurement," Zarif told Al Jazeera in Qatar's capital, Doha.

"Let's make a comparison; Iran spent last year $16bn on all its military with almost one million people in the army. The UAE with a total population of one million spent $22bn, Saudi Arabia spent $87bn," he continued.

"If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons in the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up."

Zarif's comments come after the United States announced it is working to form a military coalition to protect commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf following suspected attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

Tensions have soared in recent months around the strategic waterway, where about 20 percent of the world's oil passes through.

The friction is rooted in US President Donald Trump's decision in May 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015 between world powers and Iran.

Since then, the US has reinstated sweeping sanctions against Tehran as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign and has also increased its military presence in the region.

In his remarks to Al Jazeera on Monday, Zarif said the presence of US and foreign naval fleet never produced "security".

"This is a tiny body of water and the more foreign naval vessels you have in this body [of] water the less secure it is for everybody. Based on experience, the presence of US and foreign naval fleet in the Persian Gulf has never produced security," he said.

"We have sad memories of a US ship downing an Iranian airliner in 1988 [and] killing 290 passengers."

"We believe the best the Americans can do for protection of maritime navigation is to just leave people alone. Don't interfere, this is a hostile act against Iran and I don't believe in any other impact other than insecurity," Zarif added.

The top Iranian diplomat was in Qatar for bilateral talks with the country's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and its foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

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