Iran Says Seizure of British Ship a ‘Reciprocal’ Move

The British oil tanker Stena Impero, which is believed to have been captured by Iran, is pictuerd at at unknown location. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announced on their website Friday it has seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the latest provocation in a strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in the tensions between Tehran and the West. (Stena Bulk via AP)

(CN) – Officials from Iran said Saturday that the seizure of a British oil tanker was a ‘reciprocal’ move in response to Britain’s detainment of an Iranian supertanker earlier this month.

The British-flagged Stena Impero was boarded on Friday by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Video of the incident shows Iranian forces rappelling from a helicopter onto the ship in the Strait of Hormuz, a heavily used shipping strait that is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea.

The video, released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, showed multiple small boats surrounding the oil tanker as a helicopter containing commandos hovered overhead. The seized ship has a crew of 23 people.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said his country’s response “will be considered but robust,” spoke about his talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter.

Hunt said he “expressed extreme disappointment” in the Iranian government’s action after he was assured last week that Iran wanted to “deescalate” the situation but “They have behaved in the opposite way.”

“British shipping must & will be protected,” Hunt tweeted Saturday.

Zarif made his own comments on Twitter, calling the July 4 seizure of Panama-flagged Grace 1 as “piracy.” Iranian politician Mohsen Rezai also commented on the seizure, saying that his country was not looking for conflict, “but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.”

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most important waterways in the world, as 20% of global crude exports pass through from Middle Eastern oil producers to the rest of the world.

European allies of the U.K. and signatories to the Iran nuclear accord condemned the Iranian government and called for the immediate return of the vessel and its crew.

Relations between Iran and western nations have been strained since President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on the country.

British officials said they would release the Iranian tanker and its more than 2 million barrels of crude, if Iran provided evidence that it was not in breach of EU sanctions.

Tensions remain high in the region as the U.S. has increased its military presence there. Iran shot down a U.S. drone in June, which led Trump to almost calling for retaliatory airstrikes.

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