Iran links naval confrontation to tanker row, nuclear deal

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 29.07.2019 00:11

An emergency meeting with the parties to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers was "constructive," an Iranian official said Sunday, linking the current naval spat with the 2015 nuclear accord.

Parties to the deal met in Vienna yesterday for emergency talks called in response to an escalation in tensions between Iran and the West that included confrontations at sea, and the nuclear accord.

"The seizure of our ship in Gibraltar was also a violation of the JCPOA because our partners in the deal should not cause any problems with regards to Iran's oil export," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The naval spat started in early July when Iran's Grace-1 supertanker was stopped off Gibraltar for allegedly violating EU sanctions by carrying oil bound for Syria. Since then, Iran has seized the British-flagged Stena Impero as well as the Panama-flagged ship MT Riah in the Strait of Hormuz.

Britain has called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital international oil shipping route. An Iranian government spokesman said on Sunday such a mission would send a "hostile message."

Britain said yesterday that Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan had arrived in the Gulf to join a British frigate escorting British-flagged ships through the Strait. Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the waterway, where several oil tankers have been attacked if the U.S. tries to strangle its economy with sanctions on its vital oil exports.

The Vienna meeting was called to discuss Iran's uranium enrichment, which recently surpassed the allowed kilogram and purity levels as Iran made good on its threat to gradually leave the nuclear deal. "Both sides had complaints about each other," Araghchi acknowledged after the talks, in which he raised the tanker issue. Tehran's steps to break nuclear deal limits are a reaction to Washington's exit from the pact last year, which was done against the objections of European powers. The Trump administration has revived U.S. sanctions and launched a "maximum pressure" campaign to force Iran to agree a much broader deal.

According to Araghchi, all the countries around the table in Vienna are still committed to salvaging the nuclear pact, and he acknowledged European efforts to foster trade with his country despite U.S. sanctions that were revived as part of Washington's exit.

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