TEHRAN – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran was the guardian of security in the Strait of Hormuz and does not seek to increase tensions in the strategic region despite its recent capture of a British oil tanker.
“Iran has been, and will be, the main guardian of security and freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman during history,” said Rouhani, according to a presidential statement released on Tuesday.
Rouhani’s remarks come hours after the United Kingdom proposed a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” to ensure the safety of cargo vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero last week.
Speaking at a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Tehran on Monday night, the leader also said Iran was “not willing to escalate tensions in the region and with other countries, and will never initiate war.”
“We believe that the issues of the region should be resolved through dialog, negotiation and cooperation between neighbors and regional countries,” he added.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf escalated on Friday after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero.
While Iranian authorities say the tanker was not complying with international maritime rules, the United Kingdom describes the seizure as illegal.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that he has spoken to his counterparts in several European Union countries as well as in Iran, Oman and the US and said the Department of Transport has raised the security level for British-flagged shipping to Level 3, “advising against all passage in Iranian waters and, for the moment, in the entire Strait of Hormuz.”
He is also seeking the creation of the maritime protection mission to ensure free and safe navigation in the region.
“If Iran continues on this dangerous path, they must accept the price will be a larger Western military presence in the waters along their coastline, not because we wish to increase tensions but simply because freedom of navigation is a principle which Britain and its allies will always defend,” Hunt said.