Monday, 30th October 2017

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UK sanctions hint on Iran over ship

Hunt will unveil 'diplomatic and economic measures' in response to the detention of Stena Impero

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 22.07.19, 12:06 AM
  • Updated 22.07.19, 12:06 AM
  • 2 mins read
The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, which was said to have been seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf (AP)

British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and defence minister Tobias Ellwood have both indicated that Theresa May’s outgoing government will announce “further measures” in the Commons on Monday aimed at persuading Iran to release the British-flagged oil tanker seized on Friday.

These could include economic sanctions plus freezing of Iranian assets.

Hunt will unveil “diplomatic and economic measures” on Monday in response to the apprehension and detention of the Stena Impero, according to The Sunday Telegraph. The paper said London might also seek the reimposing of UN and EU sanctions which were lifted against Iran in 2016.

Asked if sanctions were off the table during Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Ellwood said: “Cobra (the government’s emergency committee) was taking place yesterday so we’re looking at the operational responsibilities from that but yes, we are going to be looking at a series of options.”

Securing the release of the 18 Indian nationals, who are among 23 crew on board the Stena Impero, will be a real test of India’s diplomacy. The Indian crew have become victims of a deepening conflict between Iran and the US and its closest ally, the UK.

On board the Stena, which was surrounded by Iranian fast patrol boats and boarded by revolutionary guards scaling down a rope from a helicopter, there are no British crew.

On Friday, HMS Montrose, a Type 23 British frigate, which is in the Gulf, tried to rescue the Stena but was minutes too late. An audio recording has emerged of exchanges between the Iranian authorities and HMS Montrose.

In the radio recording, obtained by British maritime security firm Dryad Global, an Iranian vessel can be heard telling the Stena: “If you obey, you will be safe. Alter your course immediately. I want to inspect the ship for security reasons.”

HMS Montrose replied: “You must not impair, impede, obstruct or hamper the passage of the Stena Impero. Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by attempting to board.”

Hunt told reporters that, having spoken to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Teheran saw the situation as a “tit for tat” following the detention by British marines of Grace 1 in Gibraltar.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hunt said. “Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation. That’s why I reached out to the Iranian foreign minister....

But Zarif tweeted that the UK “must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US”.

BA stops Egypt flights

British Airways and Lufthansa abruptly cancelled all flights to Cairo on Saturday for security reasons, a day after the British government warned of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks against planes over Egypt, The New York Times reported.

British Airways told passengers at their departure gate in London that they could not fly and could not reschedule their flights for one week. Lufthansa said it would resume its flights on Sunday.