TEHRAN – Iran’s minister of foreign affairs said on Saturday the United Kingdom needed to stop acting as an “accessory” to United States sanctions against his country, a call that comes a day after the Revolutionary Guard seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
“UK must cease being an accessory to economic terrorism of the US,” Javad Zarif said on Twitter, alluding to Washington-imposed sanctions after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
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 international 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 reference to another incident two weeks ago involving its Grace 1 oil tanker, which was impounded by the UK’s navy over suspicions it was transporting crude oil to Syria, which would flout European Union sanctions.
Iran has denied the vessel was on its way to Syria and alleged the ship’s detaining was a result of pressure on the part of the US.
Several Iranian officials confirmed Saturday the seizure of the Stena Impero was an act of retaliation over the incident in Gibraltar.
Mohsen Rezaee, the secretary of the powerful Expediency Discernment Council, said on Twitter Iran would not back down when it comes to “taking retaliatory measures,” even against the “Queen” of England.
The UK’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned of “serious consequences” if the issue is not resolved quickly, though he ruled out considering military options.