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19 Jul, 2019 19:58

UK warns Iran of consequences for 'unacceptable' tanker seizures

UK warns Iran of consequences for 'unacceptable' tanker seizures

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned Iran of consequences for seizing two vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, one of which has now been released. London's response will be "robust" but not military, he said.

"We will respond in a way that is considered but robust,” Hunt told journalists, adding that the UK hopes to resolve the crisis through diplomacy and “is not looking” at military options.

Also on rt.com ‘Escalatory violence’: Washington reacts to Tehran seizing British tanker

Hunt said that he has already discussed the incident with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and looks forward to talking to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Denouncing the seizures as “unacceptable,” Hunt argued that Tehran would be “the biggest loser” if “freedom of navigation is restricted.”

Hunt said that there are no British citizens among the crew members of either ship. He also added that the British ambassador in Tehran has already contacted the Iranian Foreign Ministry in an attempt to resolve the situation. 

UK warns Iran of consequences for 'unacceptable' tanker seizures

Earlier on Friday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Iran’s elite military force – said it has seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz over failure to “respect the international maritime rules.” The vessel sailing to Saudi Arabia was seen changing its course and heading north towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, marine tracking data showed.

Also on rt.com Iran confiscates British tanker in Strait of Hormuz – IRGC

The Swedish company owning the vessel, Stena Bulk, said it lost contact with the ship and that it was approached by “unidentified” small vessels before changing course.

Later the same day, another tanker owned by a British company - Norbulk Shipping UK Ltd – the Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar – also suddenly changed its course to Saudi Arabia and sailed to the Iranian mainland. This time, Tehran has not officially confirmed its seizure.

The tanker was apparently released later in the day, with tracking data showing the vessel changing course and heading westward and away from Iran late on Friday. The Iranian private Tasnim news agency reported that the British-owned Mesdar was cleared to continue its course, after having received a warning from the authorities over safety and environmental issues.Norbulk has confirmed that the ship has resumed its travel towards Saudi Arabia, adding that the crew was “safe and well.”

“Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage.  All crew are safe and well,” the company said in a statement.

Tehran and London have been locked in a bitter row ever since a super tanker Grace 1 carrying Iranian crude oil was seized by the British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating the EU sanctions against Syria.

Also on rt.com Reports of Iran seizing 2nd UK oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Tehran denied these accusations while calling the Gibraltar's justification of detention laughable. Iran also accused the UK of acting on behalf of the US.

Washington has long sought to pressure Tehran into concessions on its nuclear and missile programs while repeatedly vowing to bring its oil exports down to zero with sanctions. It has also recently sent a naval group led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to rehearse a possible strike against Iran while calling to form a “coalition” ostensively to defend the freedom of navigation.

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