TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on the tensions between the United States and Iran (all times local):
Police in Gibraltar say they have arrested the two second mates of an Iranian supertanker seized last week by the British navy on suspicion of carrying Tehran’s oil to Syria.
Police in the British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain say Friday the two men are in custody and assisting police with their inquiries. A statement says the investigation is continuing and the Panama-flagged tanker remains detained.
The vessel’s captain and chief officer were arrested Thursday. All four arrested men are Indian.
The ship is suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. It was intercepted by British Royal Marines last week
Britain’s foreign secretary is calling for calm amid rising tensions over shipping in the Persian Gulf, saying the UK does not want a conflict with Iran.
Jeremy Hunt said Friday that “this is a time for cool heads” to make sure there is no “unintended escalation.”
Tensions have risen after Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized an Iranian oil tanker last week. The vessel was allegedly carrying Tehran’s oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Earlier this week, the UK Royal Navy said it stopped Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through a critical shipping lane near the Persian Gulf.
Hunt said that London has given “a measured and careful” response to the situation. “We are being clear to Iran that we are not seeking to escalate this situation,” he said.
British media are reporting that the UK will send a second warship to Persian Gulf.
Both Sky News and the BBC reported Friday that the HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, will sail to the gulf after taking part in NATO exercises in the Black Sea. It is said to arrive in a few days.
The Ministry of Defense declined to comment.
The Duncan had already been scheduled to go to the region, but the deployment is being moved forward a few days amid the deepening crisis with Iran.
Duncan will operate alongside the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose and American forces.
China says it opposes unilateral sanctions against Iran and criticized what it describes as the “long arm jurisdiction” of the United States.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing said that international trade with Iran “within the framework of international law is reasonable and legitimate and deserves to be respected and protected.”
“We will resolutely defend our legitimate and lawful rights and interests,” the spokesman added.
China is one of the world powers that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has been unraveling since President Donald Trump withdrew from it over a year ago.
The head of Gibraltar’s government says an Iranian supertanker seized last week by the British navy on suspicion of carrying Tehran’s oil to Syria was loaded with 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the parliament of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, in a statement Friday that anyone who has a claim to the vessel and its cargo can file its claim in court.
The ship was intercepted by British Royal Marines off the southern tip of Spain on July 4. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency at the time called the incident “an illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.”
A senior Spanish official said the operation was requested by the United States, but Picardo says no other government asked Gibraltar to act.
He says the ship is suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Iran is demanding the British navy release an oil tanker seized last week off Gibraltar, accusing London of playing a “dangerous game.”
Friday’s comments from the Iranian Foreign Ministry come a day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that “the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”
The tanker’s interception on July 4 has stoked already high tensions in the region.