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Iran seizes British tanker in Persian Gulf

Tehran, July 20 : Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero with its 23-strong crew, while it was sailing in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only way to ship oil from the Persian Gulf to the world’s oceans.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the seizure “unacceptable” and warned there will be ‘serious consequences’ if Revolutionary Guard does not return control of British ship.

The new development has escalated the worsening standoff in the Gulf ,where one small mistake can lead to catastrophe.

Iran has accused the oil tanker of “violating international regulations.”

Stena Bulk chief executive Erik Hanell stated that the Stena did not infringe maritime regulations and there are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality.”

Hunt  said “it is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

“We are absolutely clear that, if this situation is not resolved quickly, there will be serious consequences.”

But he added: “We are not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation but we are very clear that it must be resolved.”

A second tanker, the Mesdar, which is Liberian-flagged but British operated was also briefly detained in the strait of Hormuz but was allowed to continue its voyage after a notice to comply with environmental regulations.

Hunt said the COBR meeting was called to review what in known and what can be done to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels — a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel.”Our Ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners.

President Trump said,”This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble.It goes to show you I was right about Iran.” He also noted the “US has very few tankers going in because we’re using a lot of our own energy,” but said the American presence in the region was still robust.

Freedom of navigation is of paramount concern in the Strait of Hormuz, because 24% of global oil production passes through the Persian Gulf.UK and US officials quickly denounced the move as a reckless violation of international norms.

The US-Iran tensions started after US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled  from the Obama-era nuclear deal that Iran struck with world powers, and re-imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.  Trump  has changed the US foreign policy  and is following the Israel and Saudi Arabia’s dictated statements . Israel’s Netanyahu  has pushed Trump to leave the nuclear deal.

Britain’s ambassador in Iran is in contact with government authorities in Tehran following the seizure in the Gulf of two vessels, one of them British, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

By Aarti Bali

Sr Journalist

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