Britain would facilitate the release of a seized Iranian tanker if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel would not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, Britain’s top diplomat said late on Saturday.
The comments by British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt could help de-escalate tensions that have spiked in recent days.
In apparent retaliation for the seized tanker, Iranian paramilitary vessels tried to impede the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, only turning away after receiving “verbal warnings” from a British navy vessel accompanying the ship, the British government said.
Hunt said he held a “constructive call” with Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Javad Zarif and reassured him “our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil.”
Hunt wrote that Zarif told him Iran is not seeking to escalate.
The UK Foreign Office elaborated in a statement, saying: “This was about the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions: action was taken because of where the oil was going — a sanctioned Syrian entity — not because it was from Iran.”
A day earlier, Iran had reiterated its demands that the British navy release the tanker, accusing London of playing a “dangerous game” and threatening retribution.
The tanker’s interception came on the heels of already high tensions in the Persian Gulf as US President Donald Trump’s administration continues its campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.
The US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East in recent weeks.
Iran recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal, saying these moves could be reversed if the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, the UK, China, Russia and the EU — come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the US sanctions.
The Iranian supertanker was seized with the help of British Royal Marines earlier this month off Gibraltar.
Meanwhile, the UK is accelerating the dispatch of the HMS Duncan to relieve the HMS Montrose, the frigate operating in the Persian Gulf that warned away the Iranian vessels.
The HMS Duncan, a destroyer, is larger than the HMS Montrose.
STEP TOO FAR? The mandatory COVID-19 app has unprecedented access to users’ location data and forces Android users to give access to their picture and video galleries Privacy concerns over Qatar’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, a tool that is mandatory on pain of prison, have prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions. Like other governments around the world, Qatar has turned to mobile phones to trace people’s movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor infections and alert people at risk of infection. The apps use Bluetooth to ping nearby devices, which can be contacted subsequently if a user they have been near develops symptoms or tests positive for the virus, but the resultant unprecedented access to users’ location
‘CULTURE ERADICATION’: A US official said that Beijing is trying to stamp out the Uighur culture because it is not what the Chinese Communist Party deems ‘Chinese’ The US Congress on Wednesday authorized sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Muslim Uighurs. The US House of Representatives voted with just one dissent in favor of the Uighur Human Rights Act. Rights groups say that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have been incarcerated in what Beijing calls “re-education” camps. “If America does not speak out against human rights [violations] in China because of some commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out on human rights violations any place in the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. House Committee
UNITED STATES SpaceX launch delayed SpaceX’s launch to the International Space Station — the first crewed mission to blast off from US soil in almost a decade — was scrubbed on Wednesday due to fears of a lightning strike. With NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule, the launch pad platform retracted and rocket fueling under way, SpaceX made the call to abort. “We had just simply too much electricity in the atmosphere,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said. UNITED STATES Chinese ministry checked Twitter has applied a fact check tag to at least two posts made in March by
Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has admitted damaging ancient Aboriginal rock shelters in Australia’s remote Pilbara region — blasting near the 46,000-year-old heritage site to expand an iron ore mine. Traditional owners said that the culturally significant cave in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia — one of the earliest known sites occupied by Aborigines in Australia — had been destroyed in a “devastating blow” to the community. Explosives were detonated on Sunday near the site in line with state government approvals granted seven years ago, Rio Tinto said in a statement. “In 2013, ministerial consent was granted to allow Rio Tinto to conduct activity