Monday, July 22, 2019

Britain Plans To Establish European-Led Maritime Protection In The Gulf

Britain says it is planning European-led protection force in Persian Gulf

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday said the UK wanted to establish a European-led maritime protection force for the Gulf but emphasized that London was not seeking a confrontation with Iran.
“We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support the safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region,” Hunt told parliament after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf on Friday.
“We will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible,” he said, adding: “It will not be part of the US maximum pressure policy on Iran.”

Hunt described Friday’s incident as an act of “state piracy.”
Hunt also said that a British warship, HMS Duncan, that is being dispatched to the region, would arrive by July 29, joining the HMS Montrose currently in the Gulf.
According to the foreign secretary, all British-flagged ships would be asked to give the British authorities notice when they plan to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, where Friday’s incident happened, “to enable us to offer the best protection we can.”
But he added: “It is, of course, not possible for the Royal Navy to provide escorts for every single ship or indeed eliminate all risks of piracy.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May earlier chaired an emergency security session to discuss how to respond to Iran’s seizure of the ship in the Strait of Hormuz and how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world’s oil supply.
Iran released new video showing the ship’s crew for the first time on Monday, an apparent attempt to show they were unharmed. None of the 23 are British nationals. The crew is mostly Indian, and also includes Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals.
May’s official spokesman, James Slack, said Iran seized the ship under false and illegal pretenses and it needs to release it and its crew immediately. Iranian officials have suggested the seizure was in response to Britain’s role in seizing an Iranian oil tanker two week earlier.
Slack said giving an individual naval escort to all UK-flagged ships is not an option because of the volume of traffic. But he denied cuts have made the Royal Navy too small.
Britain is considering a number of options to raise the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, but officials say military operations are not being considered at the moment.
The tanker crisis is unfolding in the final days of May’s leadership. The Conservative Party plans to name her successor Tuesday, and the new prime minister — either front-runner Boris Johnson or Hunt — is expected to take office Wednesday.
Friday’s seizure of the Stena Impero came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran stemming from US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to pull the US from Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers and reinstate sweeping sanctions on Iran.
Iranian officials say the seizure of the British oil tanker was a justified response to the Royal Navy’s role impounding its Grace 1 supertanker with some 2 million barrels of crude off the coast of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory located on the southern tip of Spain.
Britain is adding to its military profile in the region, but it does not have the naval resources that would be needed to protect all of its shipping interests. More than 400 transits through the Strait of Hormuz were made last year by UK associated ships.

On Sunday, an audio released by maritime security risk firm Dryad Global showed that a British frigate was too far away from the targeted tanker to keep it from being diverted into an Iranian port, despite UK efforts to keep it from being boarded.
In the audio, a British naval officer from the HMS Montrose patrolling the area is heard telling the Iranian patrol boat: “Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board the MV Stena.”
His words did nothing to deter the Iranians.

No comments: