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Iran says it seized British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

This undated photo shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero, which is believed to have been captured by Iran.

This undated photo shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero, which is believed to have been captured by Iran.   | Photo Credit: AP

Britain says the seizure is unacceptable, calls for freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Iran said on Friday it seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, a fresh escalation in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.

The tanker Stena Impero was taken to an Iranian port because it was not complying with “international maritime laws and regulations,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declared.

Unacceptable, says Britain

Britain said Iran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Earlier, a statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the tanker, said it was unable to contact the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz.

The company said the tanker, with 23 crew members aboard, was in international waters when it was approached but subsequently appeared to be heading toward Iran.

“I'm extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels – a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel,” he said.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region,” Hunt said.

Hunt said Britain's ambassador in Tehran was in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and that Britain was working closely with international partners.

Growing tension in the region

The incident came just two days after Washington claimed that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the Strait. Iran denied that it lost an aircraft in the area.

On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.

Tensions in the region have been growing since the Trump administration withdrew a year ago from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. After the withdrawal, the U.S. imposed harsh sanctions, including on Tehran’s oil trade, that have sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin.

Iran’s government has desperately tried to get out of the chokehold, appealing to the other partners in the deal, particularly Europe, to pressure the U.S. to lift the bruising sanctions. Europe wants to maintain the nuclear deal, but has not been able to address Iranian demands, particularly concerning the sale of oil, without violating U.S. sanctions.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 6:06:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/iran-says-it-seized-british-oil-tanker-in-strait-of-hormuz/article28604796.ece

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