NEW YORK/LONDON: British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report.
Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.
Britain on Saturday told the United Nations Security Council that the Stena Impero was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”
“The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s UN mission wrote to the Security Council. “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.”
The letter, seen by Reuters, was also sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war.
It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
“Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter read. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.”
Britain called on Iran to release the Stena Impero tanker and told the Security Council it was working to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.