Britain to deploy second warship to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran

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British warship HMS Duncan’s rotation into the Gulf was moved forward by a number of days as tensions with Iran mounted. (AFP)
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The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln pulls alongside the fast combat support ship Arctic during a replenishment-at-sea in this May 19, 2019. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the US’s 5th Fleet area operations, which includes the Arabian Gulf. (Navy Office of Information/AFP)
Updated 13 July 2019
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Britain to deploy second warship to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran

  • Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained
  • Talks between Britain and the US on building up their military presence in the Gulf are ongoing

LONDON: Britain said on Friday it would deploy the destroyer HMS Duncan warship to the Gulf to replace HMS Montrose, maintaining a continuous presence there during a time of heightened tension in the region.

Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and London said HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels which sought to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

“As part of our long-standing presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan is deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over,” the government said.

“This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping.”

Discussions between Britain and the United States on building up their military presence in the Gulf are ongoing, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said on Friday amid tensions with Iran.

Britain is not seeking to escalate the situation with Iran, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Friday, as tensions continue between London and Tehran over a seized Iranian tanker and the passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
"We are reacting to what is happening in a measured and careful way and we are being clear to Iran that we are not seeking to escalate this situation," Jeremy Hunt told Sky News.

Bahrain said on Friday it "strongly condemned" what it called an Iranian attempt to intercept a British tanker in the Gulf, according to a statement from its foreign ministry.
"This hostile action embodies Iran's insistence on threatening security and peace, and harming maritime navigation," the statement said.

Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula.
“We are talking to the US about building on our presence in the face of recent threats to shipping in the area,” May’s spokeswoman said on Friday.


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 3 min 8 sec ago
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.