Seeking to put together European-led maritime protection mission in Gulf: UK

AFP London Jul 22, 2019, 09.52 PM(IST)

File Photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Britain had urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf by releasing the UK-flagged ship it said had been illegally seized in Omani waters.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday said the UK wanted to establish a European-led maritime protection force for the Gulf but emphasised that London was not seeking a confrontation with Iran.

"We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support the safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region," Hunt told parliament after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf on 

On July 5, Iran had demanded that Britain immediately release the tanker, accusing it of doing the bidding of the US in what is "tantamount to maritime banditry".

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On July 10, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned Britain of "consequences", in comments broadcast by state television.

The same day, according to the British defence ministry, Iranian military vessels tried to "impede the passage" of a UK oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz off Iran. 

Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied any confrontation with foreign vessels in the area as tensions escalated between UK and Iran.

Just hours after Iran's Revolutionary Guards had announced they had impounded a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules", the Stena Impero did not respond to distress calls after colliding with a fishing vessel, Iranian authorities alleged.

Hunt warned of "serious consequences", while Washington slammed it as "escalatory violence". Hunt said that while the Grace 1 had been detained legally, "the Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law. It was then forced to sail into Iran. This is totally and utterly unacceptable."

Germany and France urged Iran to release the tanker, whose seizure Berlin called a "dangerous further aggravation of an already tense situation".

Britain on Saturday urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf by releasing a UK-flagged ship it said had been illegally seized in Omani waters in an "utterly unacceptable" gambit.

On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told journalists the detention of the British tanker was a "legal measure" necessary to ensure the region's security.