Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday said that the UK needed to stop acting as an “accessory” to the US sanctions against his country, a call that comes a day after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
“The UK must cease being an accessory to economic terrorism of the US,” Zarif said on Twitter, alluding to Washington-imposed sanctions after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
His comments come as the UK-flagged Stena Impero vessel was seized on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz with 23 crew members on board. It is being held at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas while Iranian officials conduct an investigation.
The ports and maritime authority in the coastal province of Hormozgan said the tanker was seized after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to warnings.
The Revolutionary Guard said the vessel had failed to comply with navigational rules.
“Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int’l maritime rules,” Zarif added in his tweet. “It is Iran that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.”
The head of Iranian diplomacy was making a reference to another incident two weeks ago involving its Grace 1 oil tanker, which was impounded by the British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating the EU sanctions against Syria.
Iran denied that the vessel was on its way to Syria and alleged that the ship’s capture was a result of pressure on the part of the US.
Several Iranian officials confirmed on Saturday the seizure of the Stena Impero was “an act of retaliation” over the incident in Gibraltar, Efe news reported.
Mohsen Rezaee, the secretary of the powerful Expediency Discernment Council, said on Twitter that Iran would not back down when it comes to “taking retaliatory measures”, even against the “Queen” of England.
UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of “serious consequences” if the issue is not resolved quickly, though he ruled out considering military options.