Dubai — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf region are a source of tension and warned that Britain’s seizure of an Iranian ship off Gibraltar will be detrimental to the country. “The presence of foreign forces does not only not contribute to the security of the region, but also will be the main cause of regional tensions,” Rouhani said on Sunday in a statement on the presidency website.The UK is attempting to build a European-led force protecting free navigation in the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards detained Stena Impero in the strategic chokepoint earlier this month. The seizure came more than two weeks after Panamanian-flagged tanker Grace 1, which was carrying Iran’s oil, was seized by Gibraltar authorities for alleged violation of EU sanctions that ban oil supply to Syria. Iran denied that the oil was heading to Syria. The UK’s ministry of defense said on Sunday Royal Navy vessel HMS Duncan has arrived in the Gulf region to help protect British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, alongside HMS Montrose. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to stand against any kind of violation of regulations that endangers the security of navigation in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman,” Rouhani said.
Iran has previously issued threats to close or disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz should the US sanctions block its oil shipments.
The Strait of Hormuz is a critical chokepoint through which about 30% of the world’s seaborne oil transits. “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies,” UK Defense secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website. “While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality.” About 17.3 million b/d of crude oil and 3.3 million b/d of refined products flowed through the strait last year, or the equivalent of about 21% of global petroleum liquids consumption, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Iran’s president blamed current tensions in the region on the unilateral US withdrawal from a 2015 accord intended to contain Iran’s nuclear program. The US withdrew last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which still includes China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK. “The unpleasant incidents and tensions in the region today are rooted in the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Rouhani said. President Rouhani was speaking during a meeting with Oman’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi, who is in Tehran on an official visit.