DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has freed 19 Iranian fishermen detained 10 months ago by the kingdom’s coastguard, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Thursday, following talks between the two regional rivals. 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.
Arablou is the head of the foreign ministry’s office in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. One of the fishing boats with 11 sailors on board was captured by the Saudi coastguard on Dec. 31, 2018, and the other with eight crew was captured on Jan. 31, 2019. 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. Arablou said the freed fishermen were in good health and have returned to Rostami port in Tangestan, Bushehr Province. Saudi authorities could not immediately be reached for comment. The country broke all ties with Iran in 2016.