Published: Fri, July 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

British Oil Tanker Exits Persian Gulf Amid Iranian Threats

British Oil Tanker Exits Persian Gulf Amid Iranian Threats

The territory's government said in a statement Monday that the tanker was "well inside" British Gibraltar Territorial Waters when it was boarded, having "previously exited the worldwide waters of the Straits of Gibraltar".

Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose is pictured at speed in the Mediterranean Sea during an exercise in October 2012.

The vessel, however, was escorted by a Royal Navy frigate, which threatened to shoot if the Iranians did not back away, which they did, the US officials said. A U.S. aircraft flying overhead filmed the incident, but the footage has not yet been released.

Three Iranian vessels attempted to prevent the British Heritage, an oil tanker operated by BP (BP), from passing the Strait of Hormuz, which is considered the world's most sensitive oil shipping choke point, according to a United Kingdom government statement.

A Government spokesman confirmed Montrose was forced to "issue verbal warnings" to the incoming boat.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region", said the United Kingdom statement.

'The UK Government is concerned by this action and we urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation'.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Britain's decision to capture and hold the Iranian tanker had set "a unsafe precedent and must end now" in a Twitter post on Monday.

Iran's Foreign Ministry maintains that the oil tanker was not bound for Syria and its seizure has taken place at the behest of the US.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's comments Thursday come following the Islamic Republic's harassment of a British oil tanker yesterday in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran warned last week that it might seize a British oil tanker after Royal Marines boarded and detained the Grace 1, a super tanker carrying two million tons of Iranian oil, as it passed through Gibralatan waters last Thursday.

The tanker's detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the US and Iran grow over the unraveling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from past year.

A picture obtained by AFP from Iranian News Agency ISNA on June 13, 2019 reportedly shows fire and smoke billowing from Norwegian owned Front Altair tanker said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman.

Iran says it is justified in breaching the limits because the US withdrew from the agreement past year and imposed sweeping sanctions.

Iranian military boats tried to seize a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz after threats this would happen following the seizure by Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker carrying crude for Syria.

Ministers would now have to consider sending another Royal Navy warship to the region - but this could further escalate tensions with Iran, he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned Britain of serious repercussions.

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