Undated photograph shows the Mesdar, a British-operated oil tanker in Fawley, Britain obtained by Reuters on July 19, 2019. JOHN PITCHER/via REUTERS

Iran seizes British oil tanker in the Gulf, Britain calls the act ‘hostile and illegal’

Britain in a letter to UN Security Council, has called Iran’s Friday seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in Gulf as “hostile act” as it was in Omani territorial waters exercising its lawful right of passage, and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”

British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt on Saturday labelled the incident a “hostile act” and denied the explanation in what it said that the seizure had been made for the vessel’s involvement in an accident.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards posted a video online showing speedboats pulling alongside the Stena Impero tanker, its name clearly visible. Troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelled to its deck from a helicopter, the same tactics used by British Royal Marines to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar two weeks ago.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had expressed “extreme disappointment” by phone to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Britain also summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in London.

However, a spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier-General Ramezan Sharif, said Tehran had seized the ship in the Strait of Hormuz despite the “resistance and interference” of a British warship which had been escorting it. No British warship was visible in the video posted by the Guards.

Iran’s Fars news agency said the Guards had taken control of the Stena Impero on Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored.

According to the news agency, the vessel was taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where it would remain there until the investigation concludes. There were 23 crew members aboard – 18 of them are Indians.

Friday’s incident in the global oil trade’s most important waterways has been perceived as a major escalation between Iran and west in west.

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