Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran will not initiate any war in the region despite US “provocations”.

"Iran is closely watching and following the activities and movements of Americans in the region, but it will never be the initiator of any tension and conflict," Rouhani said, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Rouhani reported made the remarks in a phone conversation with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The Qatari emir, for his part, underlined the need for all countries to prevent escalation of tensions in the region.

Both sides stressed the cooperation of regional states to ensure the stability and security.

Rouhani’s comments follow a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this month.

The US military said at the time that 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels from the Guards navy came close to US Navy and coast guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that the incident had taken place, but also claimed that it was American forces who sparked the incident.

US President Donald Trump this week warned Tehran over its harassment of US vessels.

Trump tweeted that he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, but said later he was not changing the military’s rules of engagement.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, General Hossein Salami, then responded to Trump’s threat and said that Iran will destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Persian Gulf.

“I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran’s military or non-military ships. Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran’s strategic priorities,” said Salami.

“I am telling the Americans that we are absolutely determined and serious in defending our national security, our water borders, our shipping safety, and our security forces, and we will respond decisively to any sabotage,” he continued.