London - Britain told Iran on Monday that if it wants to “come of the dark” it must follow international rules and release a British-flagged oil tanker seized by its forces in the Gulf. Iranian commandos seized the Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important waterway for oil shipments, on July 19. That was two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
“If the Iranians want to come of the dark and be accepted as a responsible member of the intentional community they need to adhere to rules-based system of the international community,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News. “You cannot go about detaining unlawfully foreign vessels.” Tehran is angered by renewed sanctions imposed by the United States and what it sees as the failure of Britain and European powers to protect it from the fallout of Washington’s withdrawal from a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. Under the 2015 deal, international sanctions on Iran were relaxed in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme. Britain last week started sending a warship to accompany all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, a change in policy announced on Thursday after the government previously said it did not have resources to do so. The Defence Ministry said on Sunday that a second warship, the HMS Duncan, had arrived in the Gulf to support the passage of British-flagged ships through the strait, joining the HMS Montrose.
Raab made his comments on Monday as Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards published footage purportedly showing the Guards warning off a British warship during the seizure of the Stena Impero. The video, published by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, contains footage of the capture of the tanker, showing Guards abseiling onto the deck from a helicopter, with the audio recording superimposed. Press TV, Iran’s state-run English language news channel, identified the British warship mentioned in the exchange as the Montrose. “You are required not to interfere in these issues,” the Guards’ navy representative says. “This is British warship foxtrot two three six. I am in the vicinity of an internationally recognized strait with a merchant vessel in my vicinity conducting transit passage,” a voice with a British accent replies. “Don’t put your life in danger,” the Guards navy representative says.
NOT ‘SOME KIND OF BARTER’