01:22 GMT +318 January 2020
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    The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday seized UK-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz over what Tehran describes as a breach of international maritime regulations. The vessel, with 23 crew members, including three Russian nationals, has been guided to the port of Bandar Abbas.

    Kuwait said Sunday that it "follows with extreme concern" the latest escalation in the Gulf region, Reuters reported, citing Kuwaiti news agency KUNA. "The continuation of such acts will increase tensions, expose maritime safety to a direct threat, which requires the international community to intensify its efforts to contain the escalation", KUNA said, citing a source in Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry, according to Reuters.

    Kuwait reportedly called on all parties to exercise restraint and respect international maritime law to ensure maritime security in the region.

    Ties between Iran and the United Kingdom soured after UK Marines helped to seize an Iranian supertanker with a suspected oil cargo for Syria off Gibraltar on 4 July. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused London of piracy.

    Meanwhile, the entire Persian Gulf has become a hotbed of tension over the past few months.

    In May several oil tankers were targeted by sabotage attacks off the United Arab Emirates' coast, and the United States blamed Iran for the incidents. In June, two more oil tankers were hit by explosions in the Strait of Hormuz, a key transit water way that connects the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf. The United States again accused Iran of staging the attack. Tehran has denied the accusations.

    Following this, the Iranian military reported that it had downed a US drone after it violated Iran airspace. The US Central Command stated that the US Navy drone had been shot down over the Strait of Hormuz while in international airspace.

    The UK government had an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss protections for ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

    Zarif warned the United Kingdom on Sunday against being dragged into a war by US and regional hawks, stressing that US national security adviser John Bolton and his Israeli, Saudi and Emirati allies were seeking to spark a military clash with Iran after failing to "lure" US President Donald Trump into attacking the Islamic republic.

    The situation is exacerbated as the United Kingdom is one of the signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as Iran nuclear deal.

    On 8 May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the JCPOA and imposed several consecutive rounds of economic sanctions on Iran. A year later, Tehran announced that it would partially suspend obligations under the deal and giving the other signatories — France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and the European Union — 60 days to save the accord by facilitating oil exports and trade with Iran. As the deadline expired, Iran said it would begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent level, set in the JCPOA, warning that it would gradually abandon its nuclear commitments every 60 days.

    The Strait of Hormuz is a vital waterway through which a third of all seaborne crude oil passes. London has threatened Tehran with a robust response to the detention of the UK-flagged tanker. Although the tanker crew has been out of contact, Iran claims that they are safe and that the tanker is docked in port.


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    concerns, Persian Gulf, oil tanker, Iran, Kuwait
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