- Jeremy Hunt says, Stena Impero seizure is a retaliatory measure against Grace 1 tanker.
- Germany, France and the EU urged Iran to release Stena Impero.
- Saudi Arabia, a United States ally and Iran's main regional rival, announced that for the first time since 2003, US forces would be deployed on its soil.
The United Kingdom yesterday urged Iran to ease tensions in the Gulf by releasing the British oil tanker boarded in the Strait of Hormuz, an act deemed “unacceptable” by London and raising further escalation fears. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt announced that the executive would inform Parliament on Monday about “further measures” that the United Kingdom intends to take, but the “priority” remains to “find a way to defuse the situation.” But “we also need to see a process” of appeasement on the Iranian side, he said. “We need this ship to be released.”
Arrested Friday for “non-compliance with the international maritime code” by the Guardians of the Revolution, the ideological Iran army, Stena Impero tanker, whose owner is Sweden, was taken to Bandar Abbas port (south of Iran), according to local port authorities.
The seizure came a few hours after the decision of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court to extend for 30 days the detention of an Iranian tanker, Grace 1, boarded on July 4 by British authorities, and suspected of delivering crude to Syria in violation of European sanctions. Iran denied the accusation and said it would retaliate against this “piracy” act.
Jeremy Hunt says the Stena Impero seizure is a retaliatory measure against Grace 1 tanker. “It’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” he said, assuring that the situations of the two tankers are not comparable. ” Grace 1 was (seized) legally in the waters of Gibraltar […] in violation of EU sanctions. […] Stena Impero has been seized in Omani waters in flagrant violation of international law.”
The Guardians of the Revolution broadcasted a video supposedly showing the arrest of Stena Impero: on those images, the ship is surrounded by several stars, while men in military uniform, hooded, rappelled on the tanker.
“Our action in the Persian Gulf is to enforce international maritime law,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter in defense of the tanker’s arrest. “Britain must stop being an adjunct to US economic terrorism,” said Zarif, referring to the economic sanctions reinstated by Washington after unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Germany, France, and the EU urged Iran to release Stena Impero. “Further escalation would be very dangerous for the region,” warned Berlin after the US denounced Iran’s “escalation of violence.”
According to Allah-Morad Afifipoor, director-general of the Port and Maritime Authority of Hormozgan province where the ship is located, quoted by Fars Agency, Stena Impero “collided with a fishing boat” which ” contacted the tanker. The fishing vessel then informed the Hormozgan Port Authority, which opened an investigation into the “causes” of the accident in accordance with “international law.”
The 23 crew members are all on board, he said. Eighteen, including the captain, are of Indian nationality and five others of Filipino, Latvian and Russian nationality. Stena Bulk, the Swedish oil tanker owner, received information from local port sources that the crew were “in good health.”
The weekend was marked by a controversy over an “Iranian” drone that Americans say they shot down in the strait. But Iran has denied this, claiming to have lost no drones. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. They have been exacerbated by sabotage or attacks since May targeting six vessels in the Gulf region.
In the midst of these fears, Saudi Arabia, a United States ally and Iran’s main regional rival, announced that for the first time since 2003, US forces would be deployed on its soil. This “will have an additional deterrent effect and will strengthen our capacity […] in the region,” said Central Command US forces.