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            december 09, 2019

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UK deploys warship to escort commercial shipping in Strait of Hormuz


A type 45 warship has been deployed by the UK to help escort commercial vessels through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized British product tanker Stena Impero earlier this month in the sea passage and is still holding the tanker.
The frigate, HMS Duncan, will operate together with the Royal Navy's HMS Montrose Type 23 to shepherd British-flagged ships through the strait. According to a statement by the Ministry of Defence the air defence destroyer will be active in the region until late August, reported Bloomberg.
Oman, which shares the waterway with Iran, said it has been holding talks with "all parties" to restore stability to the waterway.
"We don't mediate, but in this case we are more concerned than others to ensure the stability of navigation," Foreign Minister Yousef Bin Alawi was quoted as saying, following discussions in Tehran with Iranian officials. Oman maintains close ties with Iran.
Tensions have escalated in the strait in recent weeks as Iran pushes back against US sanctions that are crippling its oil exports. Iran's detention of the Stena Impero came after UK forces seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar earlier this month on the grounds that it violated sanctions against Syria.
The strait is a vital thoroughfare for the energy industry, accounting for one third of the world's seaborne oil flows.
"Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in the statement. "Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world."
The UK and Iran are maintaining contacts to try to resolve the situation. In a letter published on Sunday by state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming the UK Prime Minister and said he hoped this would usher in improved ties between London and Tehran.
In Vienna, representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK held talks with an Iranian envoy to try to salvage a nuclear deal from which the US withdrew last year.
The participants on Sunday reaffirmed commitments to preserving both Iran's pledges to limit its nuclear activities and the promise of lifting sanctions under the agreement, according to a European Union statement.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi characterised the talks as "constructive" but said his nation will continue to scale back its commitments to the nuclear deal unless European powers guarantee Iran's ability to gain economic benefits promised in the accord, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

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