Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States in a television interview on Monday of turning the Gulf region into a “matchbox ready to ignite.”
Oil tanker traffic passing through the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz has become the focus of a US-Iranian standoff since Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.
After explosions that damaged six tankers in May and June and Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in July, the United States launched a maritime security mission in the Gulf, joined by Britain, to protect merchant vessels.
According to Reuters, Zarif said in the interview that the Strait “is narrow, it will become less safe as foreign (navy) vessels increase their presence in it”.
“The region has become a matchbox ready to ignite because America and its allies are flooding it with weapons,” he said.
Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the British tanker, Stena Impero near the Strait for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating sanctions on Syria.
The tanker dispute has tangled Britain in the diplomatic dispute between the EU’s big powers – which want to preserve the Iran nuclear deal – and the United States which has pushed for a tougher policy on Iran.
Also Monday, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri charged that Washington’s unilateralist policies and its emphasis on sanctions threaten the stability of the region.
He was speaking at an economic forum hosted by Turkmenistan.