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UK Prime Minister To Chair Meeting On Iran Tanker Crisis

May Rouhani

UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a meeting of emergency committee Cobra following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker last Friday, the BBC reports.

The report notes the meeting comes amid talk about the UK freezing Iranian assets in response to the tanker seizure which Iran has been threatening in retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian oil-carrying vessels in Gibraltar earlier this month. The tanker, Gibraltar authorities said, was violating EU sanctions against Syria.

Last weekend, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said the UK could release the Iranian tanker provided Tehran supplied guarantees that it would not continue on its way to Syria. According to Hunt, who spoke to his Iranian counterpart at the time, the Iranian side did not want to escalate the confrontation and would seek a way to solve the problem.

The show of good will followed a reported attempt by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to seize British Heritage—a UK-flagged tanker—near the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel, however, was escorted by a Royal Navy frigate, which threatened to shoot if the Iranians did not back away, which they did, according to U.S. military sources.

Apparently, the second attempt of Iran to retaliate for its tanker seizure was successful: the vessel, named the Stena Impero, according to the IRGC, was captured while traversing the Strait of Hormuz at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization “for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

On Sunday, British media reported on the emergence of a radio recording of an exchange between the Iranian military and the crew on the HMS Montrose, the same frigate that escorted the British Heritage.

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In the recording, the Iranian forces tell the Stena Impera to change course adding that "If you obey you will be safe."

Then, the HMS Montrose addresses the tanker with the statement that "As you are conducting transit passage in a recognised international strait, under international law your passage must not be impaired, impeded, obstructed or hampered." It proceeds by addressing the Iranian vessel asking for confirmation that it was not "intending to violate international law" by boarding the Stena Impero.

The HMS Montrose was too far away to stop the seizure.

French and German authorities condemned Iran’s behaviour in seizing the Stena Impero.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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