Britain's May to chair emergency session on seized tanker

Clay Curtis
July 22, 2019

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Saturday said Tehran's actions showed "worrying signs Iran may be choosing a unsafe path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar's legal detention of oil bound for Syria".

Hunt called it a "tit-for-tat" situation, which flared hours after a Gibraltar court extended by 30 days the detention of an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago on allegations of breaching United Nations sanctions against Syria.

"Iran is taking care of the ecology in the Strait of Hormuz", he noted. Britain, however, claimed that Iran had captured not one but two ships in the Persian Gulf.

Video footage released by the Guards showed a ship with the oil tanker's markings being surrounded by speedboats, before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.

This comes after Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News that "it is impossible simply to escort each [UK] individual vessel" in the Gulf.

Tehran's seizure of the Stena Impero followed the July 4 capture by Royal Marines of the Grace 1 tanker carrying Iranian oil near Gibraltar.

Britain says the two incidents can not be compared, asserting that Britain acted lawfully off the Gibraltar coast to prevent illegal oil shipments to Syria that would have violated European Union sanctions while Iran broke worldwide maritime law by forcing the Stena Impero to change course and go to Iran. "The seizing of the Stena Impero was in clear violation of worldwide law".

The US has also expanded its military presence in the region, while Iran has begun openly exceeding the uranium enrichment levels set in the nuclear accord to try to pressure Europe into alleviating the pain caused by the sanctions.

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Iranian authorities said the Stena Impero collided with an Iranian fishing boat, but it supposedly ignored the fishing vessel's distress call.

The Iranians then tell the British warship: "Foxtrot 236 this is Sepah navy patrol boat".

Iran on Saturday seized a British-flagged vessel.

The British Government is expected to announce its next steps in a speech to parliament on Monday.

Iran's official line is its capture of the Stena Impero was because of safety issues, but it has done little to hide the move was retaliatory.

"The Revolutionary Guards responded to Britain's hijacking of the Iranian tanker", parliament speaker Ali Larijani told a parliament session aired live on state radio. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Washington and US President Donald Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton for luring Britain into conflict.

But the tanker's operator Stena Bulk said on Friday the tanker had been "in full compliance with all navigation and global regulations" but it was no longer under the crew's control and could not be contacted.

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