let’s remember there is no applicable sanction

The remit of EU sanctions against Syria is solely to prohibit EU Member States from importing, purchasing or transporting oil originating in Syria or coming from Syrian suppliers (who may have purchased the oil from another country). The sanctions (Article 6 of EU Council Regulation 36/2012) have no bearing on non-EU countries exports, including their exports to Syria. The EU has no jurisdiction over Iran’s exports, oil or otherwise, to Syria. So the UK’s justification (for the seizure of the Grace 1) that they were enforcing EU sanctions against Syria is just an out and out lie. – BornCynical, Craig Murray comments

Britain wins early European support for Hormuz naval mission
Robin Emmott, Reuters, Jul 23 2019

BRUSSELS – France, Italy and Denmark gave initial support for a British plan for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, three senior EU diplomats said on Tuesday after Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker. The backing at a meeting of EU envoys in Brussels contrasts sharply with the lukewarm response shown by Euro vassals to a similar Pindo call first voiced at NATO in late June, when countries feared they could make Pindo-Iranian tensions worse. One senior EU diplomat said:

Britain’s request, rather than Faschingstein’s, makes it easier for Europeans to rally round this. Freedom of navigation is essential, this is separate from the Pindo campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.

Britain tested the idea to senior EU diplomats at a meeting in Brussels, saying it would not involve the EU, NATO or Pindostan directly, the diplomats said. It was the first formal European meeting since British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt outlined the plans to parliament on Monday. British foreign ministry and defence officials have also discussed a possible mission, which would likely involve not just ships but aircraft too, directly with their Italian, Spanish, French and German counterparts. A senior German diplomat in Berlin said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was in close contact with his British and French counterparts, Hunt and Jean-Yves Le Drian, to “contribute to the security” of the Gulf including on maritime security. The Netherlands is also assessing the British proposal. They aim to have further meetings with Madrid and Stockholm, the diplomats said, while at the EU meeting in Brussels, Sweden, Poland and Germany also showed interest. The mission to protect vital Middle East oil shipping lanes could be run by a joint Franco-British command, one of the envoys said. Any mission would still need parliamentary approval in some EU countries, diplomats said.

Iran rejects UK’s proposal for European-led maritime force
Patrick Wintour, Groon, Jul 23 2019

Plans for a European-led maritime security force in the Gulf unveiled by UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt hit choppy waters as the plan was rejected by Iran, met resistance from supporters of the incoming PM Boris Johnson and was seen by British shipping industry experts as not providing a short-term solution to the crisis facing UK-flagged shipping in the Gulf. On Monday, Hunt unveiled a plan for a European-led maritime security force, making clear he regarded a proposed rival plan for a Pindo force as likely to be seen by the Iranians as an escalatory step, partly since Faschingstein opposes the Iran nuclear deal. Iranian vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri said any international coalition to protect the Gulf would bring only insecurity. He said:

There is no need to form a coalition because these kinds of coalitions and the presence of foreigners in the region by itself creates insecurity. And other than increasing insecurity it will not achieve anything else.

Iran has dispatched one of its most senior diplomats, Abbas Araghchi, to Paris for talks with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in a bid to find a way out of the impasse. He is said to be carrying a written message from Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president. Iran said it would attend a Sunday meeting in Vienna of diplomats from countries still supporting the 2015 nuclear deal, as they try to salvage the agreement. European leaders have broadly welcomed the Hunt plan even if it is seen as ironic that the UK is proposing a European security initiative at the point it plans to the leave the EU. Johnson’s allies appear to be willing to continue Britain’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, but see no need for Pindostan to be excluded from plans for a maritime security patrols through the Gulf. There is also resentment at the fact Hunt is attempting such far-reaching steps with implications for the future of the “special relationship” when he may be living on borrowed time as foreign secretary. The foreign office said any distinct European-led maritime initiative would not exclude Pindostan, but work in co-operation with the Pindo naval forces. Hunt told MPs on Monday:

We will be seeking to coordinate any European efforts on freedom of navigation with anything that Pindostan does. But we want our contribution, the UK’s contribution, to be to make that coalition as broad as possible.

Hunt’s allies believe he could not leave a vacuum at a time of crisis, and there is no constitutional requirement for the cabinet to consult a then-candidate for the Conservative leadership over British security plans. Hunt’s future as foreign secretary remains in question, and the scale of his leadership election defeat will be weighed against the disruption of changing foreign secretary at a time of crisis. British shipping representatives fear the plan for a European-led convoy might take as long as four months to be operational, and many British ships, fearing capture by Iran, might de-flag in the interim unless they feel fully protected. They are seeking talks with the Department for Transport over interim protection. British shipping executives reported the cost of war insurance for shipping going through the strait of Hormuz was soaring. They said the costs for a voyage through the strait for a very large crude carrier, the most common supertanker in the range of 200kt to 400kt, was set to rise by about $500k. There are fears that shipping companies will start unflagging from the British ensign fearing the flag turns the ship into an Iranian target. Some Iranian MPs have also called for tolls on British and US ships moving through the strait. The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, insisted Johnson needed to understand Iran was not seeking confrontation. Speaking after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart Denis Moncada on Monday, he made no reference to the UK-proposed EU-led maritime protection force but told reporters:

It’s important for everybody to realise, it’s important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation. We acted against Stena Impero only after it flouted maritime regulations. Iran wants to have normal relations based on mutual respect. The UK ship had turned down its signal for more time than it was allowed to, was passing through the wrong channel, endangering the safety and security of shipping and navigation in the strait of Hormuz, for which we are responsible. We have 1,500 miles of coastline in the Persian Gulf. We are responsible for the security and the freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. That is our lifeline. It is much much better for the UK not to be engaged in implementing the ploys of the B Team. The B Team is losing ground in Pindostan, and now they are turning their attention to the UK. I guess the same policies that failed in Pindostan will fail in the UK.

Nathalie Loiseau, the former leader of Macron’s party in the European parliament, said the two priorities were de-escalation and monitoring in the strait of Hormuz. Speaking on BBC World Tonight, she said:

What I find extremely interesting when a British ship has been seized, and it’s a question of high concern in the UK and rightly, there is this reflex to call the Europeans. At the very moment when you are talking about Brexit you can see we have common threats and have common ways of assessing threats. I listened carefully to the foreign secretary saying the initiative he has in mind is very different from the Pindo initiative of a policy of maximum pressure.

Iran not seeking confrontation, Tehran says in message for Boris Johnson
AFP, Jul 23 2019

Iran does not seek confrontation with Britain amid a row over seized tanker ships, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday in a message directed at the presumed incoming prime minister, Boris Johnson. Zarif told reporters in Managua:

It is very important for Boris Johnson as he enters 10 Downing Street to understand that Iran does not seek confrontation, that Iran wants normal relations based on mutual respect.

Zarif was responding to a question about whether he had a message for Johnson, who will take over from Theresa May as prime minister on Wednesday. Britain has demanded that Iran release a UK-flagged tanker seized in the Gulf on Friday. That came two weeks after British authorities seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of it breaching sanctions against Syria. Zarif claimed that move by Britain was orchestrated by Trump, who blasted the Islamic Republic on Monday as the world’s top “state of terror.” Zarif said:

It was clear from the very beginning that the UK was doing the bidding for the Trump administration. What the Brits did and what the Gibraltar authorities did in the Strait of Gibraltar was a violation of international law. It was piracy.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said at the weekend that London wanted to “de-escalate” tensions with Iran but insisted that the Grace 1 tanker was seized because it was carrying oil, against EU sanctions, to Syria. Zarif described those allegations as “unfounded” and accused the British of acting “holier than the pope,” applying rules “the EU itself would not do.” Everybody understands that starting a conflict may be easy, but ending it would be impossible.

Hunt told the House of Commons on Monday that he would seek to “put together a European-led maritime protection mission” for Gulf shipping. Zarif arrived in Nicaragua on Sunday following a meeting in Venezuela of the Non-Aligned Movement. Like Iran, the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua are subject to Pindo sanctions.

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