UK to address tanker crisis in Persian Gulf with more military

The British government will seek to develop and deploy a Europe-led maritime protection mission to protect shipping in the strategic Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British ship with a Latvian crew member.

Associated Press reports that on Monday, July 22, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Iran of «an act of state piracy» that must be met with a coordinated international reaction.

Iranian officials have implied the Stena Impero was seized and taken to an Iranian port in response to Britain’s role in seizing an Iranian oil tanker two weeks earlier off the coast of Gibraltar.

Hunt stated that Britain’s European allies will play a major role in keeping shipping lanes open. Associated Press reports that one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the narrow strait between Iran and Oman.

«It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf, because the focus of our diplomacy has been on de-escalating tensions in the hope that such changes would not be necessary,» Hunt said.

There are no British citizens among the Stena Impero’s 23 crew members — most are Indian, as well as Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals. Iran released new video showing the ship’s crew for the first time Monday, an apparent attempt to show they were unharmed.

Associated Press cited Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying that there are diplomatic solutions to the current crisis, but he also defended Iran’s actions.
«When you illegally seize a ship in Gibraltar… we don’t deem it as necessary to show tolerance,» he said. «Some countries have asked for the immediate release of the British tanker. Well, we ask those countries to make the same request to Britain first.»

Latvian diplomatic efforts and lot of patience

We have to be patient in the matter concerning Stena Impero tanker’s crew and the Latvian citizen who are detained by Iranian authorities. A lot depends on how political events unravel, says Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

He has confirmed that there is no progress to speak of at the moment because diplomats from Latvia, Finland or other countries whose citizens have been detained in Iran have not been able to contact the tanker’s crew so far.
Rinkēvičs stresses that Latvia’s foreign affairs service continues working to resolve the situation. He says it is necessary to keep in mind that a lot in this situation depends on how the political situation develops. This includes the situation with the Iranian tanker detained in Gibraltar. This is why it is necessary to stay patient, because the solution might not come «in a day or week», says the politician.

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