Diplomatic tensions in the Strait of Hormuz seem to be growing after Iran announced it has seized a foreign tanker it said was smuggling fuel in the Gulf. This could be seen as a retaliation to the seizure of the Iranian tanker Grace 1 by Royal Marines off Gibraltar earlier this month.
This comes as the Panamanian-flagged tanker ‘Riah’ sailing through the Strait of Hormuz turned its tracker off on Saturday, making the US suspect that Iran has seized the vessel due to tensions in the region.
Iranian state television quoting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the vessel was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island on Sunday, after issuing a distress call.
Iran towed the vessel to its waters after receiving a distress call, but it later seized it with a court order over smuggling fuel, Iranian sources say.
This seizure comes amid a growing tension in the Middle East and could be seen as a tit-for-tat reaction for the seizure of Grace 1 by Royal Marines off Gibraltar on 4 July.
The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is holding talks on Thursday with Gibraltar’s first minister, Fabian Picardo, to discuss the issue.
During negotiations with the Iranian foreign minister, Hunt offered to release the ship if there was an undertaking that the ship’s oil would not be taken to Syria, which is subject to EU sanctions.
The never-ending tensions between Iran and the West are related to the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 and known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).