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Iran Officials Say Saudis Fired On Fishing Boat Straying Into Territorial Waters

FILE PHOTO - Iranian fisherman.

Local officials in Iran’s Bushehr Province on the Persian Gulf say Saudi Arabia’s coast guard fired on Iranian fishermen who inadvertently crossed into Saudi waters.

Later on Saturday, Saudi Arabia said that it had fired on three Iranian boats on Thursday as they entered it territorial waters and forced them back. It is not clear if Saudis were referring to the same incident.

Iranian officials did not mention when the incident took place, but the fishermen left an Iranian port "on June 21 for a ten-day fishing expedition", according to a report by Iran’s Mehr news agency, quoting Ardeshir Yarahmadi a fisheries spokesman in Bushehr.

Yarahmadi and other officials confirmed that no fishermen were harmed in the incident.

Local officials also said that sea currents might have pushed the Iranian boat into Saudi waters inadvertently. A complete report will be issued once a full investigation takes place, officials said.

Persian Gulf states jealously guard their territorial waters from fishing boats of other countries. In 2016 Saudi Arabia detained five Iranian fishermen for almost a year before releasing them.

Tension between Shi'ite Iran and Saudi Arabia's conservative Sunni monarchy has run high in recent years. The two countries have backed opposing forces in wars across the Middle East, usually along sectarian lines.

Iran also captured Saudi fishing boats in 2017 claiming they strayed into its territorial waters.

Saudi Arabia released another nineteen fishermen in October 2019 after a ten-month detention. The crews of two separate fishing boats had been captured when "bad weather forced the boats into Saudi Arabia's territorial waters", Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency quoted Iranian foreign ministry official Ali-Asgahr Arablou as saying.