Zarif Reminds New British PM of Iran’s Resolve to Protect Territorial Waters in Persian Gul

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TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif felicitated Boris Johnson on his new post as the British prime minister, reminding him that Tehran is not after war but is resolved to safeguard its territorial waters.

“I congratulate my former counterpart, Boris Johnson, on becoming the UK PM,” Zarif wrote on his twitter page on Tuesday.

He referred to Britain’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, and said, “The May (former British prime minister) gov’t’s seizure of Iranian oil at (the) behest of (the) US is piracy, pure and simple.”

Zarif also pointed to the seizure of a British tanker in the Persian Gulf by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) after the vessel violated international maritime rules and regulations, and said, “Iran does not seek confrontation. But we have 1500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters and we will protect them.”

Boris Johnson was selected as the new leader of the British Conservative Party and thus, the new prime minister of the UK on Tuesday.

Johnson won with 66.4 percent of the vote over Hunt’s 33.6 percent. 139,318 votes were cast by Tory members with a turnout was 87.4 percent, as Johnson won 92,153 votes, compared to 46,656 for Hunt.

On Monday, Zarif had warned Britain to avoid provocative measures which lead to conflicts, stressing that Tehran did not seek confrontation.

“Starting a conflict is easy, ending it would be impossible,” he told reporters after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart Denis Moncada.

“It’s important for everybody to realize, it’s important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation,” he said, referring to the front-runner to become Britain’s new prime minister.

“Iran wants to have normal relations based on mutual respect,” Zarif added.

The top diplomat made the remarks after Britain issued Iran a volley of threatening messages in response to its Friday seizure of a UK-flagged tanker. Stena Impero was captured and an investigation initiated after the tanker collided with an Iranian fishing boat in the Persian Gulf and refused to respond to its distress call.

Zarif said Iran only acted against Stena Impero after it flouted maritime regulations.

“The UK ship had turned down its signal for more time than it was allowed to [and] was passing through the wrong channel, endangering the safety and security of shipping and navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, for which we are responsible,” he said.

Zarif also described the UK’s seizure of the supertanker as “piracy” and “violation of international law” by British and Gibraltar authorities.

The IRGC’s Navy impounded Stena Impero on Friday when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia “for failing to respect international maritime rules”.

“UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy’s First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon,” the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.

The statement added that the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control had been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.

A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm had announced there were 23 crew onboard the UK ship, stating that there had been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.

Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office in Hurmuzgan province stated that he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.

Sources told FNA that the British ship had switched off its tracking systems in violation of maritime rules and regulations and was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass.

Director General of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province Allah Morad Afifipour stated Saturday that the British oil tanker was seized because it ignored calls from a fishing boat after an accident in the waterway.

“The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, had an accident with a fishing boat on its way and according to the law, the reason and other issues related to the accident should be studied,” Afifipour told FNA.

He added that sailors on the damaged fishing boat had contacted the British vessel, but the tanker had ignored their calls.

“When the British vessel did not respond to the fishing vessel, they informed Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province according to the legal procedures,” Afifipour said, noting that his office had requested the Judiciary and the IRGC to stop the British tanker.

Also, the UK owned tanker, MV Mesdar, operating under Liberian flag was stopped by Iran’s naval patrols in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday evening after it started oil leaks in the waterway.

The ship was sent back to the international waters to continue its voyage after a short time and after it was warned to show full respect for environmental regulations and harmless navigation.

Senior military officials also rejected reports by some western media outlets claiming that the Liberian-flagged tanker had been seized, stressing that ‘Stena Impero’ was the only foreign ship under Iranian custody.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the “illegal move” of London and described it as “tantamount to piracy”. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, rejecting London’s claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

The attorney general announced on Friday that Gibraltar’s supreme court has ruled that the Iranian tanker seized by Britain’s Royal Marines can be detained for 30 more days. The court’s decision came a day after a senior Gibraltar’s official described as “constructive” talks with Iran, raising hopes that the tanker would be released imminently.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has slammed Britain’s illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of “piracy”.

On Thursday, naval forces of the IRGC seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, according to a statement by the public relations office of the IRGC Navy’s first zone. The foreign vessel was smuggling a million liters of fuel from Iran and was seized in Iranian waters South of Lark island. Yet, a statement issued by the IRGC on Thursday denied that any other foreign ship had been seized during the last week as claimed by the western media. The statement reiterated that the ship had been seized for “smuggling fuel from Iran”, and no other reason.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran’s oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, “sabotage operations” on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.

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