The UK has rejected a possible exchange of oil tankers with Iran, a decision likely to make it more difficult for London to muster EU support for an European naval coalition to protect shipping in the Gulf, reports The National.
The statement was made by the new foreign secretary, Dominic Raab in relation to Iran’s capture of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.
It was the latest in a series of Iranian escalations around the Gulf, which have included the downing of a US surveillance drone, and alleged mine attacks on several oil tankers between May and June.
Iran’s seizure of Stena Impero came after authorities in the British protectorate Gibraltar arrested an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last week the possibility of a swap if Britain reverses "their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar".
But Raab told BBC radio there would be “no quid pro quo”.
“This is not about some kind of barter. This is about the international law and the rules of the international legal system being upheld and that is what we will insist on."
Raab said the Grace I violation of sanctions deemed its interception lawful, as opposed to the Stena Impero, which he said was "unlawfully detained."
Raab said his government still hopes to set up a European protection naval force in the Gulf, but European support for the proposal (coming as the UK prepares to leave the bloc without a deal) has been lacking.
It is also not clear how it would fit within a parallel US proposal for an international force.
Britain's rejection of a tanker swap with Iran also runs counter to an accommodating position toward Tehran in Paris, Berlin and the EU headquarters in Brussels.
The European powers did not support Britain's seizure of the Grace I and have avoided serious enforcement of EU sanctions that could undermine Tehran's support for President Bashar Al Assad.