United Kingdom says three Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

United Kingdom says three Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

Iranian forces reportedly tried to stop and divert a British oil tanker as it crossed into the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, the United Kingdom said, but they were warned off by a British naval vessel.

The step was taken on Tuesday, amid growing tensions in the region.

"Then why do you commit such acts (seizure)?"

HMS Montrose, a British frigate, was five miles away monitoring the tanker's transit when the Iranian boats approached. "Any action of this nature would significantly compromise ongoing Iranian diplomatic efforts as well as significantly increase the likelihood of direct military action against Iran". The British warship is equipped with 30 mm guns specifically created to drive off small boats. The boats heeded the warning and no shots were fired.

Royal Marines, in a joint operation with Gibraltar police, last week seized a supertanker they suspected was smuggling Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

"Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo", Zarif said on his Twitter account on Monday.

The Royal Navy fended off the manoeuvres of the Iranian vessel, apparently a tit-for-tat response to the arrest of one of Iran's own ships.


Although the island is in disputed territorial waters, HMS Montrose remained in global waters throughout.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region", the statement added. "It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage".

The navy of Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied trying to stop the tanker, saying in a statement its patrol boats were carrying out normal duties, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

"Over the last 24 hours there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including British vessels", said a statement by the guard.

Why are UK-Iran tensions escalating?

Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied involvement but also cautioned both the United States and Britain that they would "strongly regret" the UK Royal Marines' detention of the Grace 1.

The Spanish acting foreign minister said the seizure of Grace 1 was at the USA request.


Earlier on July 10, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Britain would face "consequences" over the seizure of the Iranian tanker.

"I point out to the British that you initiated insecurity [in the region] and you shall grasp the consequences of it later on", Rohani said in comments to the Cabinet that were broadcast by state TV.

Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei making a speech in Iran, on 5 June, 2019.

This is enough to provide reassurance, but probably not to deal with a crisis, BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said.

A spokesman for BP, which operates the British Heritage tanker, said: "Our top priority is the safety and security of our crews and vessels".

There have been heightened tensions between the United States and Iran since early May when an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force were dispatched to the Middle East to counter new intelligence that suggested Iran and its affiliated groups were planning attacks against USA interests in the region.


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