Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, on Wednesday, suggested that his nation might be willing to release the British Stena Impero oil tanker that it seized on the Strait of Hormuz last week in exchange for the U.K.’s release of an Iranian supertanker that was impounded by Britain in the Straight of Gibraltar three weeks ago.
Rouhani’s quid-pro-quo offer suggests the British tanker was seized as a form of leverage and tool to regain its own property. Iran claimed that the Stena violated international maritime law.
“We do not seek the continuation of tension with some European countries,” Rouhani reportedly said in comments carried on his website after his appearance at the Wednesday cabinet session.
“Should they be committed to international frameworks and give up their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proportional response from Iran,” he said.
On video footage of the July 19 seizure of the British vessel, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) marine could be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great as the tanker was taken in what Rouhani lauded on Wednesday as “professional and brave.”
“The IRGC courageously seized the British ship because it had refused all the orders and warnings. They did a very accurate, professional and brave job. and I believe that the whole world must be grateful to the Islamic Revolution Guards for ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani said.
The IRGC’s seizure of the British tanker arrived just one day after Iran’s state-run television reported that the Corps had seized an unspecified foreign tanker it accused of smuggling oil. However, some analysts were skeptical of the move and accused Iran of pushing the claim to cause a surge in oil prices.
Also, one day before the British tanker was seized, the United State announced that it will send approximately 500 troops to Saudi Arabia in what is being interpreted as a show of strength to Iran.
This week, Britain announced plans to develop and deploy a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” to safeguard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
It remains to be seen how Britain’s newly-elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson will respond to Rouhani, which will be one of his earliest and most significant tests of diplomatic strength.
The fate of dual British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been languishing in an Iranian prison on unfounded espionage charges for three years, is another important diplomatic issue that Johnson’s administration will be tasked with addressing and solving.
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