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.