British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, on Monday ruled out exchanging a detained Iranian oil tanker for a British vessel seized by Tehran, saying the two actions have different legal status.
We were lawfully entitled to detain the Iranian vessel, Raab told BBC Radio 4, referring to the seizure of Iran’s Grace-1 supertanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by carrying oil bound for Syria.
Iran responded by seizing the British-flagged Stena Impero and the Panama-flagged MT Riah in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic shipping route to and from the oil-rich Gulf region.
There’s no quid pro quo or the prospect of exchanging the tankers, Mr Raab told the broadcaster.
On Sunday, Iranian President, Hassan Rowhani, urged Europe to think twice about sending a maritime security mission to Strait of Hormuz, as one of his senior diplomats linked current naval spat with the 2015 nuclear accord.
Britain proposed the mission and several European nations have signalled their interest in joining it.
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The presence of foreign troops in the Persian Gulf will not make the situation safer but rather, will lead to further tensions, Rouhani’s spokesman said, according to state News Agency IRNA.
London has already beefed up its protection of ships in the strait, announcing on Sunday that a second British warship had arrived in the Gulf.
Britain favours a diplomatic solution to guarantee freedom of navigation in the strait, but it will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until it becomes a reality, Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said.