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Australia Joins US In Protecting Oil Tankers In Strait Of Hormuz

Australia said on Wednesday it would support the U.S.-led international security mission to ensure freedom of navigation and safe passage through the Persian Gulf and its vital chokepoint the Strait of Hormuz.

Several high-profile incidents in recent months have increased the tension between Iran and the West in the Middle East and in the most important oil shipping corridor in the world, the Strait of Hormuz, which is in close proximity to Iranian coasts.  

“Our contribution will be modest, meaningful and time limited – and it will be part of an international mission,” the Australian government said in a statement, adding that it’s in Australia’s interest to protect freedom of navigation in international waters.

“Australia will defend our interests wherever they may be under threat,” the government said.

Australia will deploy a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month before the end of 2019, an Australian Frigate in January 2020 for six months, and Australian Defence Force personnel to the International Maritime Security Construct headquarters in Bahrain.

The U.S.—whose President Donald Trump said in June that countries that get their crude oil via the shipping routes in the Middle East should protect their own ships along the lanes—is trying to garner a broad international support for escorting oil tankers in the Gulf after several recent incidents.

So far the UK had said it would join the U.S. in protecting tankers after the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iran.   

In one of the latest incidents in the Gulf, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in what appeared to be a retaliatory move after the British overseas territory Gibraltar seized the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1—released last week—with the help of the UK Royal Marines at the beginning of July. 

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Khalid al-Falih, the energy minister of the world’s largest crude oil exporter and OPEC’s biggest producer, Saudi Arabia, also urged last month countries buying crude oil to secure the free navigation of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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