‘Britain wants to de-escalate tensions’

London, Jul 21 (IANS) | Publish Date: 7/21/2019 11:43:40 AM IST

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that British tanker Stena Impero has been seized by Iran “in clear contravention of international law”, but reaffirmed his country’s desire to de-escalate.

He made the remarks on his Twitter account after government emergency committee met on Saturday afternoon, discussing on how to secure the safety of UK and international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, Xinhua reported.

Hunt added that the UK Parliament will be updated on Monday.

In his earlier tweets on Saturday, Hunt said he just spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and “expressed disappointment” that having assured the UK last Saturday that Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation, “they have behaved in the opposite way.” “This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must and will be protected,” he added.

Following Iran’s seizure of Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel, in the Strait of Hormuz, Hunt said the move “shows worrying signs that Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria.” 

“We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace 1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping,” he added. 

The police of Gibraltar, which is seen by Britain as its overseas territory, arrested last week the captain and chief officer of an Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 after intercepting it on July 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of transporting Iranian crude oil to Syria, in violation of the European Union’s sanctions against Syria. 

The Iranian Foreign Minister met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York on Thursday and discussed “the tension in the region, the UK’s illegal seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian oil, and Iran’s reduction of its nuclear commitments” among other issues, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry. 

“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,” Zarif noted on Saturday in a tweet.

Crew of captured British oil tanker safe: Iran

All 23 crew members of the seized British oil tanker “Stena Impero” are “safe and in good health,” the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran told Iranian state TV on Sunday. Despite being escorted by a British warship, the oil tanker was stopped on Friday by Iran and was led to the coastal harbour for a legal investigation, Xinhua news agency quoted Iran’s IRNA news agency as saying. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for what it called “failing to respect the international maritime rules while passing through the strait.”

The tanker has crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities aboard.

The spokesman for the IRGC has condemned the British oil tanker’s action on Saturday, saying there was a risk of collision because of the tanker’s wrong direction, adding that Iran is acting legally and within the bounds of its national sovereignty in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

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