Britain plans Gulf force after tanker seizure
BRITAIN on Monday said it was planning a European-led protection force for shipping in the Gulf after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in a dramatic escalation of tensions in the region.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned Iran’s actions as “state piracy” while at the same time emphasising that Britain did not want confrontation.
“We will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible,” Hunt said, adding that a second warship that Britain has sent to the region would arrive by July 29.
In a ramping up of tensions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero on Friday in the Gulf’s strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The move came two weeks after British authorities seized an Iranian tanker off its overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of breaching EU sanctions against Syria against a backdrop of brinkmanship between Washington and Tehran.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country is not seeking confrontation with Britain in a message directed at its likely incoming leader Boris Johnson.
“It is very important for Boris Johnson as he enters 10 Downing Street to understand that Iran does not seek confrontation, that Iran wants normal relations based on mutual respect,” Zarif told reporters during a visit to Nicaragua.
He also accused Britain “of doing the bidding for the Trump administration”.
Hunt told Parliament that the protection force “will not be part of the US maximum pressure policy on Iran because we remain committed to preserving the Iran nuclear agreement”.
The United States pulled out of the nuclear deal last year.