Iran slams proposed European naval mission in Persian Gulf | News | DW | 28.07.2019
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Iran slams proposed European naval mission in Persian Gulf

The UK government has suggested setting up a European naval mission to defend ships in the Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran. Tehran says the proposal is "hostile" and "provocative."

Iran on Sunday condemned the United Kingdom's proposal for a European-led naval mission in the Persian Gulf as "provocative."

"The presence of foreign forces will not only not help the security of the region, but will be the main factor for tension," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, adding that Iran and Oman had primary responsibility for securing the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.

"The roots of the unpleasant events and tension in the region today are the unilateral withdrawal of America (from the 2015 nuclear deal)," he added, referring to the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by global powers.

Ali Rabiei, a government spokesman, also criticized the European naval mission proposal. "We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf, which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions," Rabiei was quoted as saying by the Iran's ISNA news agency. 

Tanker seized

The UK said on Monday that it was planning to launch a European-led force to protect shipping in the Gulf in response to Iran's seizure of a UK-flagged oil tanker on July 19.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boarded the Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz after claiming that the ship failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

Revolutionary Guard speedboat next to the Stena Impero

Revolutionary Guards in speedboats patrolled the Stena Impero

The seizure of the Stena Impero came two weeks after British Royal Marines impounded the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar because of allegations that it was transporting oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Read more: Iran-UK tanker standoff: What is the next step for Britain?

Maritime security

The strategically important Strait of Hormuz is used to transport one-third of the world's seaborne oil supply from energy-rich Middle East countries.

 The US has vowed to increase its military presence in the region to monitor Iranian activities.

Relations between Tehran and the US have deteriorated significantly since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed tough sanctions on its oil exports last year.

'Constructive' Vienna talks

Parties seeking to rescue the deal met in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on Sunday for talks that an Iranian official called "constructive."

"I cannot say that we resolved everything; I can say there are lots of commitments," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said.

But Araqchi said after the meeting that Tehran would "continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran's interests under the deal."

He also said Iran saw Britain's seizure of the Grace 1 oil tanker as a breach of the 2015 JCPOA deal.

"Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran's export of oil is actually against the JCPOA," said Araghchi.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union. 

Read more: Is a US-led war with Iran on the horizon as troops head to Saudi Arabia?

Possible German involvement

Also on Sunday, Wolfgang Ischinger, former German ambassador to the US and now head of the Munich Security Conference, added his voice to calls for more German military engagement in the Gulf.

Read more: Germany mulls joining European Persian Gulf naval mission

Speaking to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, the diplomat insisted that Germany had a moral duty to play its part. "Hardly any other country is as dependent on the freedom of international shipping as export champion Germany," Ischinger said.

 The German government has not yet ruled out its participation. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has suggested that Germany might take part in the UK's proposed mission. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said however that the planning was still in its infancy.

"Whether Germany takes part can only be decided when we have clarity over the form of such a mission," he told the Funke Media Group on Friday.

Read more: Oman may mediate between Iran and UK over tanker crisis

shs/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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