Thursday, 19 September, 2019

Iran tanker seizure linked to earlier act by United Kingdom marines

CNN boards the ship that shot down an Iranian drone Iran forces say they seized British-flagged oil tanker in Gulf
Lora Ball | 20 July, 2019, 18:37

Recently Islamic Revolution Guard Corps speedboats tried to seize another British tanker but were driven away by a British warship.

"The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in worldwide law", the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, as saying.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-affiliated news agency said the tanker was seized for breaking three regulations: shutting down its Global Positioning System; going through the exit of the Strait of Hormuz rather than the entrance; and ignoring warnings.

"All Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one which the US mentioned, after carrying out scheduled identification and control missions, have returned to their bases, said Gen. Abolfazl Shekari, according to Iran's Tasnim news agency".

Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk, said: "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality".

Britain however said Iran had seized two ships in the Gulf, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warning of "serious consequences" if the issue was not resolved quickly.

Its Glasgow-based operator, Norbulk Shipping UK, said communication had been re-established with the vessel and its crew was "safe and well".

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9 p.m. local time.

"We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else", said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on his Twitter account.

Germany and France on Saturday denounced Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and called on the country to release the vessel immediately. Maritime trackers show it was headed to a port in Saudi Arabia. "We are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve this situation but we are very clear that it must be resolved".

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On 9 July, the United Kingdom raised the threat to British shipping in Iranian waters in the Gulf to "critical" - the highest level.

The tanker was taken to a coastal area and turned over to the authorities to take the necessary legal steps, state television said.

Spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, meanwhile, told the semi-official Fars news agency that the seizure of the tanker was warranted on the basis reciprocity as the British navy seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar two weeks ago amid suspicions of shipping oil to Syria in violation of sanctions regime imposed by the European Union.

"We can see that they managed to get pretty close to the warship, and they said that at no point was there any confrontation between the drone and the USS Boxer ..."

A spokesman added: "The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in global waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman".

The strait, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, is the sole outlet for exports of the vast majority of Middle Eastern oil, and the seizure sent oil prices sharply higher.

The European countries opposed the Trump administration's decision to abandon the agreement previous year, but have so far failed to fulfill promises to Iran of providing alternative means for it to access world trade.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran's tanker as "piracy".

Tensions in the Gulf have soared since May, with US President Donald Trump calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic downed a US drone.

Tensions between the USA and Iran have risen sharply since the USA tightened sanctions it reimposed on Iran after unilaterally withdrawing from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

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