Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s navy will hold exercises in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz early next week, the navy chief said on Wednesday, as tensions simmer with Iran.
Exercise “Gulf Shield 1” will also take place in the Sea of Oman, with ships, planes, marines and other personnel taking part, said Royal Saudi Navy commander Abdullah Al Sultan.
Saudi Arabia and Iran - which lie on opposite sides of the Gulf - have no diplomatic relations and are at odds over regional issues including the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Gulf Shield 1 is part of a series of exercises the fleet has carried out in the area, Sultan said in comments cited by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The manoeuvres aim to “raise combat readiness” and improve skills for defending the country’s borders, protecting sea lanes “and to deter any aggression or potential terrorist operations”, the SPA report said.
Further details were not provided.
A Saudi-led coalition, including naval forces, operates a blockade of Yemen as part of efforts to prevent weapons reaching Al Houthi rebels and their allies who overran much of Saudi Arabia’s neighbour.
The United States and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of sending missiles and other weapons to the rebels, but Tehran denies the charge.
Iran and Saudi Arabia continued their verbal sparring this month with rival columns by their foreign ministers in major American newspapers.
Riyadh’s minister, Adel Al Jubeir, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on September 18 that “Iran has to abandon its subversive and hostile activities and stop its support for terrorism.”
His Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote on September 13 in The New York Times lambasting Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh’s ally Washington has accused Iran of repeated dangerous encounters with the US Navy in and around the Strait of Hormuz in recent months.
On Wednesday an Iranian commander said two of Tehran’s warships held manoeuvres with an Italian frigate in the Strait of Hormuz after it made an Iranian port call on Saturday.