Iran Slams UK's Accusations of Attacking Tanker Near Oman, Says Gulf Security is Tehran's 'Redline'
12:19 GMT 09.08.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Israel, the UK, and several other western countries claim that Iran used its drones to attack the Israeli-operated tanker Mercer Street as it was sailing near the coast of Oman on 30 July. The vessel suffered a hit to its bridge that killed two members of its crew. Tehran, however, denies responsibility for the attack.
The UK government should focus on its own "responsibilities and duties" instead of making "irresponsible statements" such as accusing Tehran of being responsible for the attack on the Israel-operated Mercer Street tanker, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated during a weekly press briefing. Khatibzadeh added that London has been making a "chain" out of such statements in recent years.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman further warned the UK that Tehran takes the security of the Persian Gulf very seriously:
"The security of the Persian Gulf is a redline for Iran, and we have done our best to protect this waterway from the insecurities of countries like Britain", the spokesman said.
Khatibzadeh also stated that Tehran sees signs of "Israeli state terrorism" in the Red Sea and other waterways. The ministry's spokesman claimed that while the UK and US remain silent about this alleged behaviour by the Israeli state, Iran will not.
The Mercer Street tanker suffered a hit to its bridge on 30 July as it was sailing through the Gulf of Oman. The attack by unknown perpetrators killed two crew members, including a British national. Israel was quick to blame Iran for the attack, claiming to have evidence supporting this theory. Soon afterwards the UK and the US also issued statements that Tehran was "highly likely" behind the assault on the vessel, yet, neither publicly presented their evidence substantiating the Islamic Republic's purported guilt. Tehran, for its part, strongly denies culpability in the attack.
© Photo : Twitter / OrHellerUnconfirmed image of the Mercer Street tanker provided by Or Heller, correspondent for Israel's Channel 10 News
Unconfirmed image of the Mercer Street tanker provided by Or Heller, correspondent for Israel's Channel 10 News
© Photo : Twitter / OrHeller
Iran has been accused of mysterious attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf in the past. These claims were mostly pressed by Washington and Tel Aviv, but no solid evidence pointing at Tehran as the culprit has yet been presented. Iran, which strongly denied the accusations, also had at least one of its tankers attacked slightly above the water-line as it was sailing through the Red Sea in 2019. One of the series of attacks was even probed by authorities in the UAE, but investigators only found that the incident was organised by a state actor without specifying the perpetrator.
Vienna Talks Not Dead
Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh additionally touched upon the pause in the Vienna talks to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal), saying that the negotiations are not dead and will inevitably continue. Khatibzadeh recalled that newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi made it clear in a recent speech that it was imperative for Tehran to lift "the oppressive sanctions". The spokesperson added that work in this area will continue once all the ministers in the new goverment are appointed.
"It is very important that we never leave these talks. There is a process of democratic transfer of power in Iran, and naturally, in these processes, there are changes in the executive teams", Khatibzadeh said.
In June 2021, Iran and the remaining signatories to the JCPOA attempted to restore the nuclear accord after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the pact in May 2018. Washington participated in the talks indirectly.
The parties to the negotiations reported making progress in the talks, but were unable to agree on some issues. Tehran, namely, demanded the swift and full removal of all American sanctions, while Washington said it required Iran to bring its nuclear programme back into compliance with the JCPOA first. The talks ended as the Islamic Republic was holding a presidential election the same month, which saw anti-West hardliner Ebrahim Raisi win the presidency. Raisi assumed office on 3 August and promised to continue fighting to lift all US sanctions, thus hinting that the Vienna talks might resume in the future.