Iran says Saudi Arabia released 19 Iranian fishermen

Report says crews of two fishing vessels were seized after bad weather, forcing them into kingdom's territorial waters.

    The Iranian fishermen 'were in good health', according to an official [File: Reuters]
    The Iranian fishermen 'were in good health', according to an official [File: Reuters]

    Saudi Arabia has released 19 Iranian fishermen following diplomatic consultations between Saudi and Iranian authorities, according to an Iranian official.

    Ali Asghar Arablou, head of the Iranian foreign ministry's office in the southern province of Bushehr, said 11 of the sailors were captured on December 31, 2018, after their fishing boat landed in Saudi Arabia's territorial waters due to bad weather conditions, Iranian Tasnim News Agency said on Thursday.

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    The other eight, all members of a different fishing vessel crew, were arrested for the same reason a month later, on January 31, 2019.

    According to Arablou's account, the fishermen "were in good health" and had returned to the Rostami Port in Tangestan, in Bushehr province.

    Tensions between long-time regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia escalated following a mid-September attack on two major facilities on Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil giant, which knocked out five percent of the global crude supply.

    Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack but Saudi Arabia swiftly accused Iran, which rejected the allegations.

    However, Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent weeks were reported to have taken steps to defuse tensions in the region. 

    Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's Parliament, said earlier this month that Tehran was open "to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region".

    "An Iranian-Saudi dialogue could solve many of the region's security and political problems," Larijani told Al Jazeera. 

    His comments came days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) told the US-based CBS programme he would prefer a peaceful resolution with Iran, as opposed to military conflict. 

    Separately, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told Al Jazeera in late September he believed Riyadh is looking to de-escalate tensions with Tehran, in remarks made after a visit to the kingdom where he held talks with King Salman.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News