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20.07.2019 Europe

Western allies urge Iran to release seized British tanker

Stena Bulk/via REUTERS
JUL 20, 2019 EUROPE

Western powers have called on Iran to release a British-flagged tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, in what the UK described as a worrying sign that Tehran "may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour".

"Such action hampers a necessary de-escalation of tension in the Gulf region," said the French foreign ministry, joined by Germany, which described the situation as a "dangerous aggravation".

The United States President Donald Trump said he would hold talks with Britain over the seizure. "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: trouble. Nothing but trouble," he told reporters at the White House on Friday.

He again denounced the 2015 deal between Iran and Western powers aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions, describing it as a "ridiculous agreement" made by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump pulled the United States out of the deal last year and began ratcheting up sanctions against Iran.

'Robust' reaction
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Tehran's seizure of the tanker showed "worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour".

The incident came hours after a court in the British territory of Gibraltar extended the detention of Grace 1, an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

"Our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace 1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping," Hunt said on Twitter.

British cabinet minister James Brokenshire said London was still seeking to establish diplomatic connections with Tehran over the incident.

"The action of the Iranians is completely unacceptable. It is so important that we maintain this free navigation through the Gulf," he told BBC radio.

"We want to see this matter resolved in a diplomatic way."

(with AFP)