British warship HMS Kent sailed on its way to the Gulf on Monday to join a US-led mission in the region, to safeguard merchant vessels in the unstable region amid heightened political tensions between the US and Iran.
The British move comes amid growing tensions between Tehran and London. The two countries have detained vessels of each other in the Gibraltar by the UK, and in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran.
“Our focus in the Gulf remains firmly one of de-escalating the current tensions,” British media quoted Andy Brown, the ship’s commanding officer. “But we are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping, which this deployment on operations aims to do,” he added.
Meanwhile, Iran announced on Tuesday that the UK authorities could release the Iranian oil tanker following “exchanging documents” regarding the detained vessel.
British Royal Marines seized the Iranian tanker “Grace 1” off Gibraltar in July, accusing it of transporting 2.1m barrels of Iranian oil to the Syrian regime in contravention of EU sanctions.
The only Arab response to the UK move came from Iraq which said that the presence of western troops in the Gulf could increase tensions in the region. Baghdad said that the Gulf countries “all of them” are able to safeguard navigation in the Gulf.
Moreover, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused the US of turning the Gulf region into a “matchbook” by bringing foreign warships to the “narrow strait,” during his visit to Qatar on Monday.