LONDON: Britain will hold Iran to account if the new president chooses to continue destabilizing the Middle East, the foreign secretary said on Thursday.
Dominic Raab said that while Britain is open to diplomacy with Iran, the inauguration of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was a “crossroads moment.”
In an interview with the Press Association, the minister said the change in president creates opportunities as tensions rise after London accused Tehran of attacking an Israeli-linked tanker off Oman last week. The attack killed two men on board — a British national and a Romanian.
“We know this is a crossroads moment for Iran,” Raab said, adding: “There is a new president who is inaugurated this week and there’s a crossroads set of opportunities.”
Iran denied involvement in an attack on the Iberian-flagged Mercer Street tanker last Thursday and another incident in the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday.
Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess was briefly seized off the UAE coast by Iranian hijackers who then fled the vessel after the ship was rendered inoperable, and US and Omani forces approached, British newspaper The Times reported.
In an audio recording of the incident, one of the tanker’s crew told a UAE coast guard that five or six armed Iranians had boarded the vessel.
“If they continue down the track of harrying or attacking shipping in the Middle East, if they continue destabilizing activities through their proxies, if they continue to row back from their nuclear commitments under the JCPOA, and if they continue to take arbitrarily detainees as we have had with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori, Morad Tahbaz then we will apply cost, we will hold them to account,” Raab said.
The foreign secretary said that although the door to diplomacy is “always ajar as we demonstrated over the last two years, we cannot have incidents like the attack off the coast of Oman without Iran being held to account.”
Britain will discuss the deadly tanker attack during a closed-door UN Security Council on Friday, but the body is not expected to take any action.
Raab has also spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the attack on Mercer Street and said the US and the UK “are united in our condemnation of Iran’s attack.”
The foreign secretary vowed a “concerted response” to the strike.