President: US JCPOA pullout root cause of tensions
The presence of foreign forces would be the main source of tensions in the Persian Gulf, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday in a meeting with Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran.
“The presence of foreign forces will not only not help the security of the region, but will be the main factor for tensions,” Rouhani told bin Alawi, saying Iran and Oman have primary responsibility for securing the Strait of Hormuz.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei also on Sunday slammed as "provocative" the British proposal for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Persian Gulf.
"We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions," Rabiei said.
He said Iran believed the security of the oil-rich body of water had to be maintained by countries in the region.
"We are the biggest agent of maritime security in the Persian Gulf," Rabiei said.
Britain said last week it was planning a European-led force to escort tankers through the world's busiest oil shipping lane in response to Iran's seizure of a UK-flagged vessel on July 19.
Iran says it detained the Stena Impero after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat and violated international maritime law.
But Iran’s seizure was seen by London as a tit-for-tat move for British authorities impounding a supertanker off the UK overseas territory of Gibraltar in early July. The British Royal Navy detained the Grace 1 that was carrying more than two million barrels of Iranian crude on allegations it was breaching EU sanctions on Syria.
Rouhani said Britain’s seizure of the supertanker was illegal and will be detrimental for the UK.
A few days ago, Rouhani suggested Iran might release the British-flagged ship if Britain takes similar steps to release the Grace 1.
Britain on Thursday ordered its navy to escort UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, where the Stena Impero was seized by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
But it has so far only received a cool response from the continent to its proposal for a multinational escort fleet that would exclude the United States.
France said on Thursday it was not willing to send extra military assets to the Persian Gulf, but would share information and coordinate its currently deployed assets.
The 33-kilometer (22-mile) wide Strait of Hormuz provides the eastern entrance and exit point into the Persian Gulf and runs between the United Arab Emirates and Iran.
Iran's high-seas standoff with Britain comes amid rising tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
The archenemies have been locked in a battle of nerves since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark 2015 deal aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear program and began reimposing sanctions.
The situation has worsened since the Trump administration stepped up a campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran this year, with tankers mysteriously attacked and a US drone downed in Persian Gulf waters.
Rouhani said Washington sparked the crisis when it pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal known by its formal name the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
"The unfortunate incidents and tensions in the region today have their roots in the unilateral US withdrawal from the JCPOA agreement and the delusions of the country's administration," said the Iranian president.
"Iran will strongly stand against any wrongdoing and illegal activity that would threaten maritime security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman," he said.
The Omani minister hailed Iran’s role in maintaining security in the region.
"Today, the region is passing through fake crises… and it is certainly not possible to create a lasting and real security in the region without the presence of Iran," he said.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.