Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted on Monday that his country’s seizure of a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf was not in retaliation for the British capture of an Iranian tanker two weeks earlier in Gibraltar, Reuters reports.

Zarif, speaking in Nicaragua, warned the West against “starting a conflict,” saying Iran was not seeking confrontation after its military seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

London described the seizure of the Stena Impero as “state piracy” and on Monday called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

Zarif, in his remarks, said Iran had taken measures against the ship to implement international law.

“Starting a conflict is easy, ending it would be impossible,” Zarif told reporters after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart.

“It’s important for everybody to realize, it’s important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation,” he added, referring to the front-runner to become Britain’s new prime minister.

“Iran wants to have normal relations based on mutual respect,” he added.

Zarif said Iran acted when it observed that the UK ship did not follow regulations.

“The UK ship had turned down its signal for more time than it was allowed to (and) was passing through the wrong channel, endangering the safety and security of shipping and navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, for which we are responsible,” he asserted, according to Reuters.

In contrast, he described the seizure of the Iranian ship as “piracy” and “violation of international law” by British and Gibraltar authorities.

On Saturday, Britain denounced Iran’s seizure of the oil tanker as a “hostile act”. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Britain said the tanker was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters.