As second British warship arrives in Strait of Hormuz, Iran's President Rouhani says detention of Grace 1 will be 'detrimental' to Britain
The seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar was illegal and will be detrimental for Britain, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, according to the official presidency website.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to stand against any kind of violation of regulations that endangers the security of navigation in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman,” President Rouhani said.
The message was echoed in Geneva, where a senior member of the team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran said the detention of the Grace 1 was a breach of that agreement, according to the ISNA news agency.
Abbas Araqchi, who is Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said: ”We witnessed the seizure of an oil tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Strait of Gibraltar which in our view is a violation of (the nuclear deal).”
“And the countries who are part of (the nuclear deal) shouldn't create obstacles for the export of Iranian oil."
The comments in Tehran and Geneva came as a top Omani diplomat travelled to Iranian capital for talks after weeks of volatility over the Strait of Hormuz, including the recent seizure by Iranian authorities of a British-flagged tanker.
The meeting between Omani foreign affairs minister Yusuf bin Alawi and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif was seen as a possible bid to diffuse a diplomatic standoff with Britain after the Stena Impero was seized earlier this month.
Oman, seen as a neutral Gulf Arab country that has acted as a facilitator of talks between the US and Iran in the past, sits across the Strait from Iran, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The Omani diplomat's visit also comes amid a spike in tensions between Washington and Tehran stemming from President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw the US from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and impose sweeping sanctions on the country.
And in another development, a second British warship has arrived in the Strait of Hormuz to protect British ships as the Iranian seizure of a tanker goes into its second week.
The Ministry of Defence said the Royal Navy vessel HMS Duncan has now arrived in the Gulf to travel with ships flying under the British flag.
The Type 45 Destroyer will join the Frigate HMS Montrose amid growing tensions following the seizure of British-flagged tanker Stena Impero by Iran's Revolutionary Guard on July 19.
It was previously announced that British-flagged ships travelling in the Strait of Hormuz will be accompanied by a Royal Navy escort, with officials advising shipping companies to travel in convoy.
HMS Montrose has so far escorted 35 shipping vessels through the troubled strait during 20 separate journeys.
The Ministry of Defence stressed the importance of freedom of navigation for global trade and economies.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies. Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.”
"I'm pleased that HMS Duncan will continue HMS Montrose's fine work in helping to secure this essential route."
"While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality."
Around a fifth of the world's oil travelled through the strait between Iran and Oman in 2018.
Stena Bulk, which owns the British-flagged tanker, said embassy officials had met crew members from their respective countries.
A statement from the company on Saturday said: "Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management continue to work closely with the authorities to secure the release of the Stena Impero and its 23 crew members.
"Feedback from the officials is that the crew are in good health and they appreciated the interaction with their government representatives.
"The crew members continue to have limited contact with family members, who we continue to support during this difficult time."
Iranian officials have said the Stena Impero with its crew of 23 - none of whom are British nationals - had violated international shipping laws during its transit through the Strait.
But other senior Iranian officials have suggested the ship was seized in retaliation for the British Navy's role in seizing an Iranian supertanker first, off Gibraltar over violations of EU sanctions on oil sales to Syria.
The Royal Navy on July 4 helped Gibraltar authorities impound the Iranian ship, which was carrying more than two million barrels of crude.
The vessel, the Grace 1, remains anchored off the east side of the Rock.