Iran may be choosing a “dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior” after its authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the foreign secretary has warned.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard took control of the UK-registered Stena Impero over what it claimed were violations of international maritime rules at around 4pm UK time on Friday. They felt so emboldened to record themselves celebrating after their capture by raisin Irans flag and playing the Muslim call to prayer.
The capture comes just weeks after British royal marines took control of Iran’s Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of transporting fuel to Syria.
A second British-owned oil tanker, the Liberian-flagged MV Mesdar, was also boarded by armed guards shortly afterwards and was seen to veer some distance off-course towards the Iranian coast.
Around five hours after it changed direction, the vessel’s Glasgow-based operator said communication had since been re-established with the ship and the crew were unharmed.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said his country might be willing to release a U.K.-flagged ship if Britain releases an Iranian oil tanker that the British Royal Navy seized earlier this month.
His remarks could create an opening to reduce tensions in the region just as Boris Johnson replaces Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister
Rouhani insisted Iran does not want tensions to escalate and the U.K. would receive a “proportional response from Iran” if it returned the seized vessel.
“We do not seek the continuation of tension with some European countries,” Rouhani said in comments carried on his website. “Should they be committed to international frameworks and give up their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proportional response from Iran.”
Britain this week announced plans to develop and deploy a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” to safeguard shipping in the area after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. Any quid pro quo move to swap seized vessels would fall upon the U.K.’s newly-appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.