Spotlight: Rising Gulf tensions worry world

Chen Zhuo
2019-07-20 22:25:52

TEHRAN, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Iran on Friday seized a British oil tanker following London's refusal to release an Iranian oil tanker it had seized, as tensions in the Gulf are unsettling the international community.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Friday it has seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, saying that "the British vessel was captured for failing to respect the international maritime rules while passing through the Strait of Hormuz."

The Stena Impero collided with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored its distress call, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Saturday.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said late Friday that "we're not looking at military options, we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved."

The United States has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the seizure, said the U.S. Central Command. A small number of additional patrol aircraft are flying in international airspace to monitor the situation, Earl Brown, a Central Command spokesman, was quoted by U.S. media as saying.

Earlier this month, the British Royal Marines seized an Iranian ship in the Strait of Gibraltar, which Britain claimed was heading to Syria "in breach of EU (European Union) sanctions."

Iran had threatened to retaliate if London did not release the Iranian oil tanker, which is still under British detention.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship of the U.S. Navy, destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, has denied it, tweeting on Friday that "We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the United States to avoid any steps that would stoke further tensions with Iran, according to an interview published on Thursday.

"Any reckless moves can lead to conflicts fraught with unpredictable and destructive consequences," Lavrov told German newspaper Rheinische Post.

The U.S. military said Friday that the Pentagon has authorized the movement of military personnel and resources to Saudi Arabia to help deter "credible threats." Last month, the Trump administration announced a decision to deploy 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.

Amid new concerns over tensions in the Middle East, which may disrupt the flow of crude through the Strait of Hormuz, oil prices rebounded on Friday.

Besides, gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange extended gains on Thursday over a weakening U.S. dollar and rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

"The Gulf region is important to international energy supply and global security and stability," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Friday. "We hope relevant parties can jointly safeguard security of passage through the straits and regional peace and stability."

France, Germany and Britain, three EU members of the Security Council, in late June called for the de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf and asked for dialogue to defuse them.

The three countries are gravely concerned over the increased tensions in the Gulf that were further heightened after Iran's downing of a U.S. drone on June 20, said the three countries in a statement after closed-door Security Council consultations on Iran.

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