Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has compared piracy to terrorism saying it is “a disease that is afflicting the world” and said “it is definitely something very dangerous but international initiatives have fortunately been taken to confront it.” The minister made his comparison during his meeting with his Greek counterpart in Athens yesterday after correspondents asked him about the hijacking of the Saudi oil tanker “Sirius Star” which sources say is carrying 2.2 million barrels of oil. Sources which spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat estimated the tanker’s value as between $100 and$150 million, basing these estimates on the tanker’s cargo and the contract date which was signed early this year when oil prices were rising.
According to sources which spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, the “Vela International” Company Limited which owns the tanker is the one negotiating with the hijackers but they did not divulge the contents of these negotiations or the pirates’ demands. However, Lieutenant General Talal Anqawi, the Border Guards commander in Saudi Arabia, has denied to Asharq al-Awsat by telephone from Yemen that there are discussions to establish or form a “military force” from several countries to hunt down the pirates at sea. But he added that “Yemen is doing its duty toward the humanitarian issue in full.” On the need to guard ships carrying very expensive goods and cargos, Lt. Gen. Anqawi stressed that this is not part of the Saudi Border Guards’ tasks and responsibilities since they are outside the country’s territorial waters. But an oil expert said international regulations ban ships from carrying weapons aboard. He did not however rule out an amendment of these regulations if the recent acts of piracy continued to affect the commercial and security movement across the world.