Easing tension in Persian Gulf is priority of British embassy: ambassador

July 29, 2019 - 19:30

TEHRAN - British Ambassador to Tehran Robert Macaire has said that easing tension in the Persian Gulf region is a priority of the British embassy.

“Easing tension will remain the first priority of the embassy and Britain,” he tweeted on Monday.

The tweet by the ambassador came despite the fact that a second British Royal Navy warship arrived in the Persian Gulf, a move which will heighten tension in the region. 

Tensions have soared since the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 nations last year and reimposed sanctions, including a ban on Iran’s oil exports.

In recent weeks, Iran and Britain have seized a tanker each, putting further pressure on the agreement.

Meanwhile, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that Britain’s proposal for a European-led maritime mission to escort tankers in the area is “provocative” and “carries a hostile message.”

In a meeting with Omani foreign minister in Tehran on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani also said, "The presence of foreign forces will not help the region's security and will be the main source of tensions." 

On July 19, Iranian forces impounded a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for involvement in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat, after the tanker ignored distress calls.

Allah-Morad Afifipour, head of the Ports and Maritime Organization in the southern Hormozgan Province, said on July 20 that the 30,000-ton Stena Impero tanker had collided with a fishing boat on its route, adding that according to law, after an accident it is necessary that the causes are investigated.

Following the collision, those on board the fishing boat contacted the British vessel but didn’t receive any response, so they informed the Hormozgan Maritime Organization according to the legal procedures, Afifpour added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a tweet on July 20, said Iran’s conduct towards the British tanker had been fully within international maritime rules. He also compared Iran’s action with a seizure of an Iranian tanker by the UK off Gibraltar.

“Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int’l maritime rules. As I said in NY, it is IRAN that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf & the Strait of Hormuz. UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.”

On July 4, Britain captured a supertanker carrying the Iranian oil by claiming that it was transporting oil to Syria in violation of the EU sanctions. However, Iran has rejected the claims that the oil tanker was destined for Syria. Tehran has said the capture of the tanker is a violation of the nuclear deal in line with Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran.

“Despite what the government of England is claiming, the target and destination of this tanker wasn’t Syria,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araghchi said on July 7. “The port that they have named in Syria essentially does not have the capacity for such a supertanker. The target was somewhere else. It was passing through international waters through the Strait of Gibraltar and there is no law that allows England to stop this tanker. In our view the stopping of this ship was maritime robbery and we want this tanker to be freed.”

In remarks on July 23, Araghchi also said Iran will not let disturbance in shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

“Iran will make any effort to maintain security in this region, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, and will not allow any disturbance in shipping in this sensitive region,” he said during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris.


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