Prime News, International, (London), July 26:-The British Royal Navy warships will accompany all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, according to a change in policy amid rising tensions in the Gulf region.
Tensions have spiked between Iran and Britain since the Islamic Republic seized a British-flagged tanker, named Stena Impero and its 23 crew members, including 24 Indians, in the Strait last Friday.
The incident came two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near the British-controlled territory of Gibraltar, accused of violating EU sanctions on Syria.
HMS Montrose, a British warship now in the area, will accompany the vessels, a government spokesman was quoted as saying.
“The Royal Navy has been tasked to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, either individually or in groups, should sufficient notice be given of their passage,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Freedom of navigation is crucial for the global trading system and world economy, and we will do all we can to defend it,” he added.
Britain has been seeking to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s seizure of the tanker in what London said was an act of “state piracy”.
Jeremy Hunt, who was foreign secretary until a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, had said on Monday that it was “not possible for the Royal Navy to provide escorts for every single ship”.
The change of policy was not the result of a change of under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A government official was quoted as saying on conditions of anonymity that the government had been working on the plan for a few days.
The Department for Transport has advised shipping companies to give sufficient notice of their travel plans so they can be protected.
The United States, Britain and other nations will be reportedly meeting in Florida next week to discuss how to protect shipping in the Gulf from Iran.
Washington, which has by far the strongest Western naval contingent in the Gulf, has been calling for its allies to join it in an operation to guard shipping there.
But European countries, which disagree with a US decision to impose sanctions on Iran, have been reluctant to sign up to a US-led mission for fear of adding to the tension in the region.
-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)