Britain calls for European maritime forces to combat Iranian piracy

As tensions escalate between United Kingdom and Iran over seizure of British oil-tanker, the island nation seeks assistance of international maritime protection forces lead by Europe. On Monday, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons, “We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime mission”. Hunt added that he contacted to the foreign ministers of Oman, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Spain and Denmark to discuss the details of the operation.

Hunt condemned Iran’s act in parliament and said, “Under international law, Iran had no right to obstruct the ship’s passage – let alone board her. It was therefore an act of state piracy.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards justified their act saying that the tanker passed through the wrong channel, ‘violating international maritime rules’. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the tanker was seized after it rammed into with a fishing boat and UK ship did not to respond to calls from the boat.

Many claimed it to be a retaliatory move on the part of Iran, after Royal Navy took control of Iranian oil-tanker, Grace 1, off Gibraltar two weeks ago. UK forces seized the ship for it suspected the tanker to be carrying oil to Syria, which came in conflict EU sanctions.

On Sunday about 160 Iranian lawmakers issued a joint statement applauding the act of seizure by Iranian commandos, who rappelled from the helicopter onto the tanker.

US was the First Nation to approach Britain with a proposal to guard its ships on high seas especially near Strait of Hormuz, the narrow strip of water between Oman and Iran, where its oil-tanker Stena Impero got seized by Iranian forces.

Britain was too confused to accept the proposal right away. The UK had to take a diplomatic route between combating Iranian piracy and preserving the sanctity of 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.  Hence Hunt said that his country would not become a party to ‘US maximum pressure campaign on Iran’.

But the UK accepted few grounds of the US proposal. Hunt said, “We would not … seek to exclude the American navy because they have a vital role for example in the refueling of our own ships, the communication system, the command, and control system, and indeed intelligence support. So we would always operate in partnership.”

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