Iran vows to secure Strait of Hormuz as four states back European naval mission

France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark back European-led efforts to ensure safe shipping in the passage

FILE PHOTO: Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo
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Iran plans to secure the Strait of Hormuz and "will not allow any disturbance to shipping" there, the country's deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday, despite Tehran seizing a British-flagged oil tanker last week.

Iran's claim is clouded by accusations of attacks against six oil tankers and the seizure of the Stena Impero, leading to a crisis in relations with the UK.

France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark support a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, three senior EU diplomats told Reuters on Tuesday.

The UK's Foreign Office proposed the idea after Iran’s seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker, which Jeremy Hunt, the country's foreign secretary, called "an act of piracy".

Spain, Sweden, Poland and Germany also showed interest in joining the mission, which would be led by France and the UK.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi met French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, state news agency Irna reported.

Mr Araghchi later met President Emmanuel Macron and delivered a message to him from President Hassan Rouhani, Irna said.

“They both emphasised using diplomacy to bring peace to the world,” Irna reported.

Mr Le Drian said earlier that France was working with European allies to improve maritime security in the Gulf but stopped short of backing Britain’s call for a naval mission.

Almost a fifth of the oil used globally passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

On July 9, Washington proposed increasing efforts to protect strategic waters off Iran and Yemen where it blames Iran and its proxies for recent tanker attacks.

“This is the opposite of the American initiative, which is about maximum pressure to make Iran go back on a certain number of objectives,” Mr Le Drian said.

Tension has also been high between Tehran and London recently, with both of them seizing each other’s ships.

Britain's Stena Impero was taken by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's Grace 1 was taken by the Britain's Royal Navy off the coast of Gibraltar.

Iranian state media released images of crew members on the British tanker on Monday.

On Tuesday, a US military commander said a Navy ship shot down a second Iranian drone last week in the Strait of Hormuz.

The USS Boxer brought down the two drones in nine-hour manoeuvres between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, US Central Command chief Gen Kenneth McKenzie told CBS News.