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    US Naval Buildup in Persian Gulf Creates Risks of Armed Conflict in the Region - Lavrov

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Reckless military moves in the Persian Gulf could lead to conflict fraught with unpredictable and destructive consequences, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, commenting on tensions between the US and Iran.

    "We witness a buildup of the US naval task force [in the Persian Gulf] amid the ongoing exchange of accusations between Washington and Tehran, which creates the risks of an armed clash", Lavrov said in a written interview with Germany's Rheinische Post newspaper.

    "Any reckless move may lead to a conflict fraught with unpredictable and destructive consequences," he added.

    Tensions in the Persian Gulf area raised in June as several oil tankers from various nations got attacked there and in the neighboring Gulf of Oman. The United States and its regional allies claimed that Iran had a role in the incidents, while Tehran has denied the allegations. Moreover, the United States has announced the increase of its warships and troops operating in the region.

    Iran subsequently announced that it had downed a US surveillance drone flying over the coastal Hormozgan province after the vehicle crossed into its airspace. The US military said the drone had been shot down while operating over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.

    In the wake of the incident, US President Donald Trump said he ordered strikes on targets in Iran but subsequently called off the attacks because they would be a disproportionate response.

    Moreover, the United States have been recently imposing economic pressure on Iran. Particluarly, Washington has unilaterally withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aimed at ensuring the peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions against the country.

    The United States, specifically, targeted Iran’s oil sector with sanctions, also prohibiting other states from cooperating with Tehran via extraterritorial restrictions.

    Lavrov argued that the current surge in tensions around Iran was caused by the United States’ "short-sighted and dangerous" policies, aimed at completely deteriorating Iran’s economy.

    "During our contacts at various levels, we are persistently calling on the United States to avoid any steps that could provoke further tensions around Iran. Our common goal is to prevent the situation from spinning into military confrontation and returning to the sustainable implementation of the JCPOA," Lavrov pointed out.

    The Russian top diplomat noted Moscow’s strong ties with Tehran in various areas.

    "We do not plan to cease the absolutely legal and mutually beneficial cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran at the behest of anyone’s ‘phobia’ or caprice", Lavrov said in the interview.

    Russia was among other JCPOA parties — China, France, Germany, Iran, the United Kingdom, and the European Union— that have slammed Washington's withdrawal from the agreement and the reinstatement of sanctions, saying it threatened not only Iran but international security as well as countries and companies that continued to do business with Tehran.

    Certain Forces Creating Hostility Atmosphere Around Sputnik, RT

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also told the Rheinische Post that some forces are creating an atmosphere of "hostility and toxicity" around Russian media outlets in Germany.

    "There are some forces that are fueling the atmosphere of hostility and ‘toxicity’ around Russian media outlets … Representatives of the local political establishment and journalist industry alliances have had a role in a campaign to discredit Sputnik and RT-Deutsch … Some of them even call for boycotting our media outlets and banning them from cable networks … You cannot imagine any similar [actions] toward German media outlets in our country", Lavrov said.

    The top diplomat noted that the authorities should be guided by the principles of freedom of press and nondiscriminatory access to information for the citizens, which had been endorsed by various international organizations, in their policies toward media outlets.

    Lavrov added that Russian media outlets were working in Germany in line with the country’s law and high journalist standards.

    "The sources of financing Sputnik and RT, including by the Russian government, are directly stated on official pages of these outlets. It is a normal practice and there are no ‘sensations’ to be searched for here. For example, the government of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and other countries also fund various media outlets", Lavrov pointed out.

    Russian media outlets, particularly Sputnik and RT, have recently faced pressure in western countries. For example, in Germany, the Federation of Journalists called on national regulators supervising media activities not to issue a license for RT Deutsch, claiming that the broadcaster was a "tool for Kremlin propaganda".

    Moreover, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, released a report that labeled RT Deutsch and Sputnik as propaganda outlets that it said posed as independent media.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has noted that German media had intensified attempts to discredit Russian media outlets, including RT Deutsch and Sputnik Deutschland, pledging to hand over this information to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

    RT and Sputnik chief editor Margarita Simonyan, in her turn, has said that the news outlets never made a secret of being financed by the Russian government.

    Positive Dynamics in Russian-German Relations

    In addition, Sergey Lavrov noted positive dynamics that have recently emerged in relations between Berlin and Moscow.

    "The anti-Russian sanctions policy seriously harms Europeans themselves — EU member states’ budgets lack billions of dollars; thousands of jobs are ended or not created. We believe that the realization of lack of prospects of imposing political and economic pressure on Russia, which has already begun, is already gaining traction … That is why, we can observe positive dynamics in Russian-German relations", Lavrov said.

    The foreign minister explained that these dynamics had emerged namely in trade and economy, science and technology and cultural and humanitarian areas, as well as cooperation between civil societies. Lavrov also noted the importance of interregional and intermunicipal cooperation.

    Moscow believed that Germany saw benefits in continued work on improving relations with Russia, Lavrov argued, noting that progress in that area depended on both sides.

    Efforts that each of the countries could take in order to improve bilateral relations should be discussed by Russian and German diplomats, according to Lavrov.

    The foreign minister also noted that Russia was interested in developing cooperation with Germany, one if its important EU partners.

    Lavrov’s interview was published ahead of his visit to Germany, which is set to begin later on Thursday, for talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

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    Persian Gulf, United States, Iran, Sergei Lavrov
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