UK to increase military presence in Gulf amid tensions with Iran

UK to increase military presence in Gulf amid tensions with Iran

The United Kingdom announced Monday that it will increase its military presence in the Persian Gulf amid escalating tensions with Iran.

"It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf because the focus of our diplomacy has been on de-escalating tensions, in the hope that such changes would not be necessary," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament.

"We do not seek confrontation with Iran; we have taken every available opportunity to reduce misunderstanding whilst standing by our rock-solid commitment to the international rule of law which is the foundation of global peace and prosperity," added Hunt, one of two Conservative Party candidates seeking to be the next U.K. prime minister.

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He outlined a new European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe passages of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, where a U.K.-flagged oil tanker was seized by Iran on Friday.

"I therefore urge Iran to release the Stena Impero and her crew and observe the rules that safeguard commercial shipping and benefit Iran as much as any other country," Hunt said.

The seizure came after Britain had earlier seized an Iranian ship in the Mediterranean on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria, a violation of European Union trade law.

"But there is simply no comparison between Iran’s illegal seizure of a vessel inside a recognised shipping lane — where the Stena Impero had every right to be — and the enforcement of EU sanctions against a tanker that had freely navigated into the waters of a British Overseas Territory," Hunt told Parliament.

To kickstart the freedom of navigation effort, the U.K. is deploying a naval destroyer, the HMS Duncan, to the region.

Hunt emphasized that Europe's effort is separate from the U.S.'s "maximum pressure policy" on Tehran because European nations "remain committed to preserving" the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE exited last year.