Iran denounces proposed Gulf EuroFleet

Iran has denounced the British-led proposed ‘EuroFleet’ as “provocative” and “hostile”. The proposal outlined a plan to have European-led naval ships escort tankers in the Gulf amid soaring tensions over the seizure of ships.

More specifically, this proposal is a direct response to Iran’s seizure of a U.K. vessel on July 19, and along with the proposal, a Royal Navy warship arrived in the Gulf to accompany British vessels passing through the vital Strait of Hormuz. Iran says that the presence of foreign forces will not help alleviate tensions in the Gulf.

On Monday, Britain said it was planning a European-led force to escort tankers after the July 19 seizure of the U.K.-flagged vessel, the Stena Impero. The capture of the Stena Impero came two weeks after British authorities detained an Iranian tanker – the Grace 1 – of its overseas territory Gibraltar over allegations it was breaching EU sanctions on Syria.

Britain on Thursday ordered its navy to escort U.K.-flagged ships through the Strait, where the Stena Impero was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“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,” said Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

The government spokesman said Iran believed the security of the oil-rich Gulf had to be maintained by countries in the region.”We are the biggest agent of maritime security in the Persian Gulf,” Rabiei was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said a force like that proposed by the U.K. would only make matters worse. “The presence of foreign forces will not help the region’s security and will be the main source of tensions,” Rouhani said after talks in Tehran with Oman’s minister in charge of foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi.

Yusuf bin Alawi said that Muscat was “concerned” about security in the Strait and was “in contact with all parties”.

“Any error or miscalculated move could hamper navigation in international waters and harm everyone,” he told state broadcaster Oman TV after meeting with Rouhani.

France, Italy, and Denmark gave initial support for a British plan for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, proposed after Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker, three senior EU diplomats said last week. However, the proposal has so far generally received a cool response from the continent, partially because it would exclude the United States.

The U.S. military has said it is already monitoring the area and developing a “multinational maritime effort” dubbed Operation Sentinel to increase surveillance and security in key Middle East waterways.