A NATO spokesperson released an official statement Saturday regarding the situation in the Strait of Hormuz.
“We condemn the seizure of two commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz. This represents a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation. We urge Iran to immediately release the ships and their crew,” the statement reads.
Following what appears to be a recent trend of pushing for talks between Iran and the West, NATO vowed support for a diplomatic resolution of the situation.
“The UK has made clear that their priority is to address the situation through dialogue and diplomacy. NATO supports all diplomatic efforts to resolve this situation. All Allies remain concerned by Iran's destabilising activities,” the statement reads.
On Friday, Iranian authorities stopped two ships – registered in Liberia and the UK – in the Strait of Hormuz. The Liberian ship was released shortly thereafter, but the UK vessel, the Stena Impero, was seized by Iranian authorities and commandeered to an Iranian port.
The ship was seized after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat, despite receiving multiple warnings about its unsafe actions. Iranian officials accused the crew of switching off its positioning equipment in violation of the rules of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.
According to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, a UK warship intervened and attempted to prevent the capture of the vessel. The tanker remains in Iranian custody as Iranian officials conduct an investigation of the incident.
Earlier, Iran announced it had seized another ship which Tehran claimed was being used to smuggle fuel. The ship reportedly carried one million litres of fuel when it was seized in an area south of Iran’s Larak Island, Sepah News reported. Media reports, citing unnamed sources, suggested the ship was also registered in the UK, but London debunked the reports.
An IRGC spokesperson on Saturday commented on the incidents, referring to them as legal “reciprocal action," Fars news agency reported
"The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law which is used against the foul measures of a government," Kadkhodayee wrote on his twitter page on Friday, according to Fars.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif commented on the ongoing tensions, saying that the 4 July seizure of the Iranian tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar was “piracy,” adding that Iran is committed to upholding security and maritime rules in the Strait of Hormuz.