TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on developments related to tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local):
France’s foreign ministry has called on Iran to quickly free a British-flagged oil tanker and its crew, as well as respect freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.
The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the seizing of the ship “harms the needed de-escalation of tensions” in the region.
It firmly condemned the action while expressing solidarity with Britain.
Iran said it seized the tanker on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in what marked a new escalation of tensions in a crisis over the slow unraveling of the 2015 nuclear accord.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been leading a bid to de-escalate tensions and resume dialogue.
Iran’s state TV is showing the first footage of a British-flagged oil tanker after it was seized a day earlier by the country’s Revolutionary Guard.
The Saturday report published a video showing the Stena Impero docked near the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran near the Strait of Hormuz.
Earlier Saturday, the director general of Ports and Maritime Affairs of Hormuzgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, said all 23 crew members would remain on board the ship in order to follow safety regulations.
Iran’s Guardian Council, a powerful constitutional watchdog, says the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was in response to Britain’s role in seizing an Iranian tanker earlier this month.
The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a council spokesman, as saying Saturday that “The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law.”
Kadkhodaei says Iran made the right decision in the face of an “illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers.”
The Council rarely comments on such matters, but when it does, it’s seen as a reflection of the supreme leader’s views. That’s because the council works closely with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.
The Indian and Philippine governments say they’re working to get Iran to release nationals from the two countries who were on board a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said Saturday its diplomats were “in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation” of the 18 Indian crew members on the Stena Impero.
Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs also says its ambassador to Tehran is in contact with Iranian authorities to ensure the one Filipino crew member’s safety and immediate release.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola says there have been no reports of injuries among the crew.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has said the other crew members consisted of three Russians and a Latvian.
The chairman of Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee says military action to free the oil tanker seized by Iran would not be a good choice.
Tom Tugendhat said Saturday it would be “extremely unwise” to seek a military solution to the escalating crisis, especially because the vessel has apparently been taken to a well-protected port.
“If it has been taken to Bandar Abbas then that’s an important Iranian military port and I think any military options will therefore be extremely unwise,” he told BBC.
He also said it would not be useful to expel Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom because it is important to keep talking.
Other senior British figures have said military options should not be used.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency is reporting that the country’s seizure of British-flagged oil tanker a day earlier was due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat.
Saturday’s report says the British tanker caused damage to the fishing boat, then didn’t respond to calls from the smaller craft.
The fishing boat informed Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, which notified the Revolutionary Guard.
The report says Revolutionary Guard vessels directed the Stena Impero to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for an investigation Friday.
Iran’s attempt to offer a “technical” explanation for seizing the tanker could signal a possible de-escalation of tensions in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West.
Another British ship was briefly detained by Iran on Friday before being allowed to go.