The Guardian (Nigeria)
UK seeks European naval force to counter ‘piracy’ in Gulf
TUK has planned to deploy a European-led naval force to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in what London called an act of “state piracy”.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement following an emergency ministerial
meeting to respond to Friday’s incident, which saw Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commandos seize the Stena Impero tanker “for failing to respect international maritime rules”.
“Under international law, Iran had no right to obstruct the ship’s passage - let alone board her. It was, therefore, an act of state piracy,” Hunt told Parliament.
“We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region,” he added. The UK has called on Iran to release the vessel and its 23 crew members immediately, with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman describing the seizure - in apparent retaliation for the British capture of an Iranian tanker two weeks earlier in Gibraltar - as illegal.
In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran’s actions were not in retaliation for the British capture of the Iranian tanker and he warned the West against “starting a conflict,” saying Tehran was not seeking confrontation.
“Starting a conflict is easy, ending it would be impossible,” Zarif told reporters after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart on an official visit.
“It is important for everybody to realize, it is important for [new British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation.”
Jeremy Hunt said Britain has had constructive discussions with a number of countries in the last 48 hours over starting an international maritime mission.