Iranian Presidency Office via AP; Press TV
- Tensions between the UK and Iran remain high as Britain still has an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating EU sanctions, and Iran still has a British oil tanker that it seized in retaliation.
- Iran’s president last week suggested swapping the two vessels to end the deadlock.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, also advocated this plan.
- But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday rejected this idea, saying that Iran should uphold international law instead.
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The UK has ruled out a plan to swap oil tankers with Iran to end the two countries’ diplomatic deadlock, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father advocating that exact plan on Iranian state TV last week.
Military tensions between London and Tehran remain high after the Royal Navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 oil tanker off the British territory of Gibraltar on July 4, claiming that the vessel had been transporting oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz two weeks later in retaliation. The tanker and its 23 crew members remain at Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last week that his country might release the Stena Impero if the UK returned the Grace 1.
Dominic Raab, Britain’s new foreign secretary, ruled out this idea on Monday morning, saying that the UK had seized the Iranian ship in compliance with international law, while the IRGC had captured the British tanker illegally.
Jeff Overs / BBC / Handout via Reuters
"There is no quid pro quo," Raab told the BBC’s "Today" radio program on Monday morning. "Grace 1 was intercepted because it was in breach of sanctions and heading with oil to Syria."
"We were absolutely lawfully entitled to detain it in the way we did. The Stena Impero was unlawfully detained," he added.
"So this isn’t about some kind of barter. This is about international law and the rules of the international legal system being upheld, and this is what we will insist on."
Last week Stanley Johnson, the father of newly installed prime minister Boris Johnson, told Iranian TV that his son could solve the Iran standoff "easy peasy," saying that the best way to do so would be to swap tankers.
"Of course you have this situation at the moment where we’ve got your ship which is called Stella, you’ve got our ship, which is called something else," Stanley Johnson told Press TV hours after his son was officially named prime minister, while misnaming the Iranian vessel.
"Well, the best thing would be to say, look, we let your ship go, you let our ship go," he added. "Easy peasy."
Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
Tehran has accused the Stena Impero of violating international rules, though both the UK government and Stena Bulk, the company operating the ship, have denied any wrongdoing on the ship’s part.
Raab told the BBC: "We are going to continue to make the case to the Iranians, as they are trying to increase their acceptance amongst the international community, that they’ve got to respect international law."
"We are going to be expressing and engaging with Iranian authorities that we expect the vessel and the crew to be released," he added.
Rouhani on Sunday congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming prime minister, and said he hoped that Johnson’s "familiarity" with Iran-UK relations could help the standoff.
Johnson visited Iran once in 2017 as Britain’s foreign secretary. During that visit, he wrongly said that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — a British-Iranian dual citizen jailed for allegedly spying on the regime — had been "teaching people journalism" when she had in fact gone to visit family in the country.
Iran’s judiciary ultimately used Johnson’s comments to justify her prolonged imprisonment, and Iranian state TV called them an "unintended confession of the UK government about the real plot." Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in Iranian prison.
- A bold British tanker ignored the government’s warnings and traveled through the Strait of Hormuz, just days after another UK ship was captured by Iran
- Iran releases awkward video purporting to show seized British tanker crew cooking on board 3 days after they were captured
- How the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water where ships transport $1.2 billion worth of oil every day, is at the heart of spiraling tensions with Iran