The British Ministry of Defence confirmed Wednesday that three Iranian ships tried to block the passage of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and a naval vessel had to intervene.
The ministry said in a statement that, “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the strait of Hormuz.”
The HMS Montrose was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the statement added. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
Iran has rejected those claims. Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, described the British allegations as “worthless” in remarks to the semi-official Fars news agency. “Apparently the British tanker has passed. What [the British] have said themselves and the claims that have been made are for creating tension and these claims have no value,” Zarif said.
Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also denied that it tried to stop the British tanker. In April, the United States designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the first time the U.S. has used the designation on part of another country’s government.
Bloomberg first reported Monday that an oil tanker owned by British Petroleum (BP) was sheltering inside the Persian Gulf amid fears it could be seized in an act of aggression by Iran. The British Heritage, a mid-size oil tanker capable of carrying one million barrels of oil, was sailing toward the Iraqi port of Basra when it retreated to the safety of the Saudi Arabian coastline on July 6.
Tehran threatened to retaliate against British assets in the region following the seizure by the British navy of an Iranian oil tanker entering the Mediterranean off the coast of Gibraltar last week. The vessel, owned by a Dubai-based company with ties to Iran, was carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.