The Royal Navy will escort British flag ships in the Strait of Hormuz
Britain’s Defense Ministry announced Thursday it ordered the Royal Navy to escort British-flagged civilian ships into the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran boarded one of these ships last week.
“The Royal Navy has been instructed to accompany British flag ships in the Strait of Hormuz, if sufficient notice of their passage is given,” the ministry said in a statement.
“On the issue of Iran, we are working to defuse the current tensions,” said a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday afternoon. The seizure on 19 July by Iran of Stena Impero, a Swedish oil tanker flying the British flag, fifteen days after the Iranian tanker Grace 1 was arrested by the British authorities, was “an illegal act,” said the spokesman. “We want them to release the boat and its crew,” he added.
On Monday, Jeremy Hunt, who was still Foreign Minister, had called on all British flag ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz to communicate the date of their passage to “allow us to offer the best possible protection”, but had not considered it possible for the Royal Navy “to offer an escort to all boats or eliminate all risks of piracy”.
He said the second British warship en route to the area, HMS Duncan, would arrive by July 29.
Hunt, who has since been sidelined by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who replaced him with Dominic Raab, had also announced he wanted to set up a European protection mission in the Gulf.
Paris, London and Berlin plan to “coordinate” their means and “share information” in the Gulf to strengthen maritime security, but without deploying additional military means, said the French Minister of Armies Florence Parly in an interview published Thursday in the French regional daily L’Est Républicain.
“We are working to organize ourselves between Europeans, but one thing is certain: our behavior will have only one goal, to lower the current tensions and defend our interests,” Parly said.
Tensions have been mounting in the Gulf’s strategic region since the US withdrawal in May 2018 from the Iranian nuclear deal, followed by the reestablishment of heavy US sanctions against Iran.
They have intensified in recent weeks with attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, attributed by Washington to Tehran, denying any involvement.