Tuesday, 17 September 2019 | 22:38
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Britain to create European maritime mission to counter Iran’s ‘piracy’

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 | 12:00

Britain will create a European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel in what London said was an act of “state piracy”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the Stena Impero in the Strait on Friday. British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar two weeks ago.

“We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region.”

He said Britain has had constructive discussions with a number of countries in the past 48 hours over the mission.

The move comes after Britain’s Defence Secretary Tobias Ellwood acknowledged that the Royal Navy — once the world’s largest — was “too small” to manage Britain’s global interests.

But the official spokesperson for outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, James Slack, denied cuts have made the Royal Navy too small.

Mr Hunt also said he would discuss how the maritime mission would complement US proposals in the area, but that Britain would not join the US plan as it wanted to preserve a nuclear deal reached with Iran.

World powers including France, Germany, China and Russia agreed to ease economic sanctions on Iran in 2015 in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear program.

The Trump administration took the US out of the agreement in 2018 and subsequently imposed harsh sanctions on the country — a decision that the former UK ambassador to the US said was done to spite former president Barack Obama.

Britain will now ask all British-flagged ships to give the Government notice of intentions to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, Mr Hunt said.

“We will then advise them as to the safest way to transit, which may involve travelling in convoy,” Mr Hunt said, adding that Britain would also strengthen measures to protect ships flying the flags of other countries but which had British crew.

“But the risks can be substantially reduced if commercial shipping companies cooperate fully with instructions from the Department of Transport, which we strongly encourage them to do.”

Vessel seizure an ‘abuse of the rule of law’
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Defence said the Government was concerned about Iran’s “unjustified and escalatory behaviour”, backing calls for the remaining vessel to be released.

“Freedom of navigation and the safe passage of maritime trade through international waters is a sovereign right under international law,” the spokespersons said.

“The arbitrary detention of legitimate trading vessels on spurious allegations is an abuse of the rule of law.”

The spokesperson said Defence was consulting with Australia’s allies and following the situation closely.
Source: ABC

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