Iran's president warns foreign powers to keep naval ships out of the Persian Gulf

Key Points
  • Iran says it and neighboring countries are solely responsible for security in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
  • The U.K. wants a military alliance of European nations to escort ships in the region.
  • In recent days, Iran and the U.K. have both seized control of ships flying the flag of the other nation.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) attends the 21st Nationwide Assembly of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Commanders in Tehran, Iran on September 15, 2015.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told his cabinet that protecting security around the Persian Gulf is solely the responsibility of countries in the region and that other nations should stay away.

The United Kingdom is attempting to form an alliance with other nations to protect ships passing through the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, a channel that sees 20% of the world's oil supply pass through it.

A U.K. ministry of defense spokesperson confirmed to CNBC Wednesday afternoon that negotiations were ongoing with a number of countries within Europe as well as others including India, the United States and Pakistan.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) seized a British Ship traveling through the channel on Friday, an apparent tit-for-tat measure after the United Kingdom had previously impounded an Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean which was suspected of intending to deliver oil to Syria's Assad regime. Such a move is banned by EU sanctions.

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Speaking to his cabinet Wednesday, and in a translation subsequently published on Rouhani's official English language website, Iran's president said foreign military might from other parts of the world should not send armed ships to the region.

"The main responsibility for protecting the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is mainly with Iran and neighbouring countries, and is not the others' business, and the Iranian nation has always been the protector of the Persian Gulf," Rouhani said.

He then praised his military team for taking control of the Stena Impero on Friday, a British flagged tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.

"The IRGC courageously seized the British ship because it had refused all the orders and warnings. They did a very accurate, professional and right thing and I believe that the whole world must be grateful to the Revolutionary Guard for ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf," said Rouhani.

A picture taken on July 21, 2019, shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards patrolling around the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero as it's anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
Hasan Shirvani | AFP | Getty Images

The Iranian president claimed his country was "not looking for military tension" and any actions taken by Iran have been in accordance with "violations of the opposite side."

The Stena Impero is now being held in the port of Bandar Abbas, in southern Iran and on Wednesday it was reported that no direct British diplomatic effort was yet underway to free the ship.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told fellow lawmakers in the House of Commons Tuesday that Iran had committed an act of "state piracy" and that the UK would seek to develop a maritime protection mission with other European nations.

Initial support for the plan has reportedly appeared from French, Italian and Danish governments.

On Wednesday Germany's Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said it was too early to talk about whether Berlin would commit to any military alliance, adding that "conceptual deliberations" were just beginning.

A spokesperson for the European Union told CNBC Wednesday via email that developments were being closely followed and reiterated that "freedom of navigation must be respected at all times."

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