Iran threatens to launch legal action over seized UK tanker
British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iranian Republican Guards on July 19 in retaliation for the detention of an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has now said legal action will be taken. But he did not say which individuals or institutions would be facing the legal action, or when a trial would take place.
He told a press conference today: “We no longer ignore irregularities.“It will be dealt with in Iran’s courts.“If necessary, we can speed up the process.”Mr Zarif added Iran’s move was “no reprisal” against the detention by Gibraltar, a British territory, on July 4 of Grace I, an Iranian tanker.
The UK authorities said the tanker was carrying oil to Syria, which was in breach of sanctions.The US also imposed sanctions on Mr Zarif last week in a bid to ramp up “maximum pressure” against Tehran.But Mr Zarif said sanctions against him signalled Washington’s “failure in dialogue and diplomacy”.The New Yorker reported that Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, invited Mr Zarif to meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last month.READ MORE: Iran foreign minister says he was sanctioned by US
But this was rejected by Tehran.Tensions have been rising since the Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran following its abandonment of the nuclear deal.Tehran has been seeking to put pressure on the other international signatories to get the Americans to lift this, as it has been crippling the economy.They shot down of a US drone, which prompted Mr Trump to order US air strikes on Iran.DON'T MISSIran news: Iraqi oil tanker seized in Gulf for ‘smuggling fuel' [ANALYSIS]Iran WAR: Expert reveals who would win in UK Vs Iran fight [INSIGHT]Iran news: Fears of catastrophic WAR surge [WARNING]
But he called them off at the last minute.In the latest incident, Iran was reported to have seized an Iraqi tanker in the Gulf for smuggling fuel to other Arab states.Iraq’s oil ministry said it had no connection to the vessel and that was working to establish what had happened.Meanwhile, the Royal Navy will work with the US Navy in accompanying merchant shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, the Ministry of Defence has said.
Previous foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK was seeking to form a European-led mission to safeguard shipping in the region.He said while it would be “complementary” to US efforts, it would be different from the US policy of exerting “maximum pressure” on Tehran following Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the international Iran nuclear deal.Mr Hunt’s successor, Dominic Raab, has insisted the decision now to join the US did not represent a shift in UK policy on the nuclear deal - which the UK along with the other European signatories continues to support.He said: ”Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, as protected under international law.”
“Our approach to Iran hasn’t changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal.”The Ministry of Defence said that for now the mission would largely draw on existing assets in the region including Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan and Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose.The US has also committed two warships specifically to the mission as well as aerial surveillance.Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK is determined to ensure her shipping is protected from unlawful threats and for that reason we have today joined the new maritime security mission in the Gulf.“Upholding international maritime law and freedom of passage is in all our interests. We are seeing, across our seas and oceans, too many incidents that seek to challenge such freedoms.“The deployment of Royal Navy assets is a sign of our commitment to our UK-flagged vessels and we look forward to working alongside the US and others to find an international solution to the problems in the Strait of Hormuz.”