Iran now says British tanker seizure a 'reciprocal' move

Iran now says British tanker seizure a 'reciprocal' move
It follows Gibraltar's holding of Iranian tanker, due to suspicions it intended to ship oil to Syria.
3 min read
20 July, 2019
An Iranian is being held in Gibraltar [Getty]

Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker near the Persian Gulf was in response to the UK's role in holding an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, senior figures in Iran said Saturday.

It follows two previous contrasting explanations from Tehran about its seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero on Friday night. First Tehran accuses the tanker of smuggling oil and second that it collided with an Iranian fishing vessel and ignored a distress call.

The incident has prompted condemnation from the US, UK and Europe as the allies call for the Gulf waterways to be open to commercial shipping.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK's response to the seizure "will be considered but robust".

He also spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed his "extreme disappointment" about the situation, which comes after assurances that Tehran wanted to de-escalate the situation but instead "they have behaved in the opposite way".

"This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected," he said.

He also spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed "extreme disappointment" that despite assurances Tehran wanted to de-escalate the situation "they have behaved in the opposite way."

US President Donald Trump said he would hold talks with the UK about the tanker's seizure.

"And this only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: trouble. Nothing but trouble," he told reporters at the White House on Friday.

The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance due to one-fifth of all global crude exports passing through the narrow waterway, which sits between Iran and Oman.

The Stena Impero was brought to an Iranian port late Friday by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard forces.

The ship's owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by "unidentified small crafts and a helicopter" during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz, which seized with a crew of 23 crew aboard.

The spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency describing Friday's seizure as a legal "reciprocal action".

The council rarely comments on state matters, but its opinions usually reflect the opinions of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

The tit-for-tat move by Iran drew condemnation from European signatories to a nuclear accord with world powers, which includes the UK. 

Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.

Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from President Donald Trump's decision to pull the US from Iran's nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for restrictions and inspections.

Trump has since re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports and beefed up its military presence in the Gulf.