LONDON, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Britain is seeking to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to protect shipping in the Gulf following the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iran, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons Monday.
Updating MPs about the crisis, Hunt announced the Department of Transport has raised the security level for British-flagged shipping, advising against all passage in Iranian waters and, for the moment, in the entire Strait of Hormuz.
Hunt told MPs: "If Iran continues on this dangerous path, they must accept the price will be a larger Western military presence in the waters along their coastline, not because we wish to increase tensions but simply because freedom of navigation is a principle which Britain and its allies will always defend."
He said because freedom of navigation is a vital interest of every nation, the aim of the maritime protection mission will be to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in what is a vital region.
Last Friday, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the British oil tanker "Stena Impero" in the Strait of Hormuz for what it called "failing to respect the international maritime rules while passing through the strait".
Hunt urged Iran to release the Stena Impero and its crew.
Before the Stena Impero incident, the police of Gibraltar, which is seen by Britain as its overseas territory, had arrested the captain and chief officer of an Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1.
Gibraltar authorities intercepted the Iranian oil tanker on July 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar on alleged suspicion of transporting Iranian crude oil to Syria, in violation of the European Union's sanctions against Syria. Enditem