U.N. chief ‘extremely concerned’ about the seizure of ships in the Strait of Hormuz

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was "extremely concerned" over the recent seizure of vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz and adjacent waterways.

Deputy U.N. spokesman, Farhan Haq, in a statement read of behalf of the Guterres, said “The Secretary-General stresses the need to respect the rights and duties related to navigation through the strait and its adjacent waters in accordance with international law. The Secretary-General urges all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from actions that will escalate tensions further.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged vessel the Stena Impero in the Strait on Friday. British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar two weeks ago.

The seizure of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz – the world’s most important waterway for the oil trade – has deepened a crisis between Tehran and the West that was triggered in May when Washington tightened sanctions, effectively barring all countries from buying Iranian oil.

Britain called on Iran on Monday to release the tanker and its crew immediately, describing the seizure as illegal.

European countries including Britain have stuck with the nuclear pact that Iran signed with world powers in 2015 since the United States pulled out three years later.

But the pact is now hanging by a thread and Britain was thrust more directly into the confrontation on July 4, when its Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. Britain accused it of violating sanctions against Syria, prompting repeated Iranian threats of retaliation.

(Production: Soren Larson)

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