UK Calls Iranian Seizure of British Tanker ‘Highly Escalatory’
“The Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law. It was then forced to sail into Iran. This is totally and utterly unacceptable.”
“A British-flagged oil tanker remains in Iranian custody after being seized by the Islamic Republic’s navy in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The U.K. [United Kingdom] government convened an emergency meeting of national security officials to discuss the seizure of the Stena Impero, a Downing Street spokeswoman said Saturday. The U.K. Foreign Office also summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires,” CNN reported Friday soon after news of the latest tank seizure became public knowledge.
Stena Bulk, the owners of the Stena imperial tanker released the following statement in response to the incident.
Following reports received by its local representatives in the region, Stena Bulk releases the following statement regarding the Stena Impero and its crew:
“Our insurers in the region have been in contact with the Head of Marine Affairs at the Port of Bandar Abbas, who has reported that the crew members of our vessel Stena Impero are in ‘good health’ and that the tanker is at the nearby Bandar Bahonar anchorage.
“The Head of Marine Affairs has asked a formal request be made for a visit to be arranged to the crew members and vessel. We can confirm this formal request is being prepared forthwith.
“Our insurers have also advised that the Head of Marine Affairs has confirmed to them that no instructions have been received so far as to what will happen to the ship.”
“I can confirm a formal request for permission to visit the 23 crew members of the Stena Impero has been made to the authorities at the Port of Bandar Abbas,” Stena Bulk Chief Executive and President Erik Hanell also said on Sunday.
“The request has been acknowledged, but we await a formal response. In the meantime, we will continue to co-operate and liaise with all appropriate authorities,” he continued.
After emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA), which occur in the U.K. after national or regional emergencies; U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the following statement:
I had a fairly long conversation with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, this afternoon. And it’s clear from talking to him and also statements made by Iran that they see this as a tit-for-tat situation, following Grace 1 being detained in Gibraltar. Nothing could be further from the truth. Grace 1 was detained legally in Gibraltarian waters because it was carrying oil against E.U. sanctions, to Syria, and that’s why Gibraltarian authorities acted totally with respect to due process and totally within the law.
“The Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law. It was then forced to sail into Iran. This is totally and utterly unacceptable,” Secretary Hunt continued in his statement.
Through her official spokesperson, exiting Prime Minister Theresa May called the seizure of the Stena Impero as, “unacceptable and highly escalatory.”
Dangerous Next Steps
Recalling Secretary Hunt’s statements after a European Union meeting to discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPoA aka Iran Nuclear Deal], “Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear weapon. We think there is still a closing, but small, window to keep the deal alive,” the hope to prevent an all-out military encounter remains.
While the current escalation is discouraging, a healthy round of negotiations can put an end to the game theory posturing from all parties involved. If recent events are to provide a framework of expectation, the Stena Impero crew will be released without incurring any physical harm.