China might escort ships in Gulf under U.S. proposal – envoy

Persian Gulf/SoH

By Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI (Reuters) – China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a U.S. proposal for a maritime coalition to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.

“If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels,” Ambassador Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

“We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements,” China’s embassy later said in a text message.

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UK to join US-led taskforce in Gulf to protect merchant ships

Persian Gulf/SoH

The Royal Navy will join a US-led taskforce to protect merchant ships travelling in the Gulf.

The move comes amid growing tensions between the two western powers and Iran over the shipping route in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian forces seized British-flagged vessel Stena Impero last month, while the US has tightened sanctions on Iran.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new maritime taskforce would give “reassurance for shipping”.

But it goes against plans laid out by his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, for a European-led mission in the area.

The UK government confirmed last month that it would provide a Royal Navy escort, from warships HMS Duncan and HMS Montrose, for British-flagged ships passing through the strait.

The Ministry of Defence said the new mission would involve the same warships.

The US has also committed two warships to the mission, as well as aerial surveillance.

Washington has re-imposed – and latterly tightened – its own sanctions on Iran, after withdrawing from a 2015 deal to limit the country’s nuclear activities.

The UK and other European countries remain committed to the plan, but diplomatic tensions have been strained in recent months – increasing after the seizure of the Stena Impero.

Mr Raab said the UK’s decision to join the US-led mission did not change its commitment to the nuclear deal and that the government was working to “de-escalate the situation” in the Gulf.

Announcing the new mission, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK was “determined to ensure shipping is protected from unlawful threats”.

He added: “Upholding international maritime law and freedom of passage is in all our interests.

“We are seeing, across our seas and oceans, too many incidents that seek to challenge such freedoms.”


BP avoids sending tankers and crews into Gulf waters

Oil giant’s CEO takes decision amid fears its tankers could be targeted by Iranian forces as tensions mount

British oil giant BP is avoiding sending ships to the region after it had to shelter one of its tankers in the Gulf this month in fear it could be targeted by Iranian forces.

BP is “certainly not sending British ships and crews” through the Strait of Hormuz, the only way for tankers to reach the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, CEO Robert Dudley said in an interview on Bloomberg TV.

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Russia Submits Persian Gulf Security Plan to UN

Russia’s concept of collective security in the Persian Gulf has been distributed as an official document approved by the United Nations.

“In the current conditions, energetic and effective action is needed at an international and regional level in the interests of improving and further stabilizing the situation in the Persian Gulf, overcoming the prolonged crisis stage and turning this sub-region to peace, good neighborly relations and sustainable development,” the document said, TASS reported.

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Iran asks China for support as Royal Navy warship arrives in the Gulf

Persian Gulf/SoH

Senior Chinese politician told UK and USA are ‘fanning flames of war’ during visit to Tehran

By Max Channon

Iran has reportedly  asked China for its support in the Gulf, as Royal Navy Type 45  Destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the region.

The state – which seized a British-flagged tanker in retaliation for a UK operation involving Royal Marines from Plymouth which saw an Iranian tanker  seized near Gibraltar earlier this month –  has also condemned UK calls for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Gulf.

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Iran says European fleet would be ‘provocative’

Persian Gulf/SoH


Britain planning joint force to escort tankers through Strait of Hormuz after seizure of UK-flagged vessel

Iran on Sunday slammed as “provocative” a British proposal for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Gulf, amid soaring tensions over the seizure of ships.

“We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf, which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

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Iran tanker seizure: UK warship HMS Duncan arrives in Gulf

A second Royal Navy warship has arrived in the Gulf to protect British ships amid heightened tensions in the region.

HMS Duncan has joined frigate HMS Montrose to escort vessels sailing under the British flag through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose has so far accompanied 35 vessels through the strait, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK continued to push for a diplomatic resolution to the situation.

He said: “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies.

“Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.”

Mr Wallace added the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels “until this is the reality”.

HMS Duncan is a Type 45 Destroyer which the Royal Navy describes as “among the most advanced warships ever built”.

Why have tensions escalated?

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines helped seize Iranian tanker Grace 1near Gibraltar which was suspected of breaking EU sanctions, infuriating Iran.

In response, Tehran threatened to capture a British oil tanker.

On 19 July, British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the key shipping route.

A second British-linked tanker, the MV Mesdar, was also boarded by armed guards but was released.

Tehran said the Stena Impero was “violating international maritime rules”.

HMS Montrose was alerted but it was too far away to stop the seizure.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the tanker was captured after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to calls from the smaller craft.

But the then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was seized in Omani waters in “clear contravention of international law” and then forced to sail into Iran.

The tanker’s Swedish owners, Stena Bulk, said it had been complying with regulations and had been in international waters.

Stena Bulk said the 23 crew members, who are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, are in good health and have met with officials from their respective countries.

How has the UK reacted?

The then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt called the seizure of the Stena Impero “state piracy”.

But he insisted: “Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation.”

Speaking to the BBC, former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith described the UK-flagged ship’s capture as a “major failure” by the UK.

The then defence minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News “it is impossible simply to escort each individual vessel”.

What has Iran said?

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet the UK “must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US”.

He said Iran guarantees the security of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and insisted its action were to “uphold international maritime rules”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has indicated the Stena Imepero could be released if the UK returns the Grace 1.

In a statement on his website he said: “We are not going to continue tensions with some European countries and if they are committed to international frameworks and abandon some actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proper response from Iran”.