Saudi Arabia Urges Global Community to Deter Maritime Trade Disruptions

DUBAI, July 23 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s cabinet said on Tuesday that Iran‘s interception of commercial vessels in Gulf waters, including its seizure of a British tanker, violated international law and must be prevented.

The Saudi remarks came after Britain called on Monday for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Straight of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery.

“Any disruption of the freedom of international maritime traffic is considered a violation of international law and the international community must do what is necessary to reject it and deter it,” the Saudi cabinet said in a statement carried on state media.

Iran said on Friday it had seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.

Britain has called the seizure an act of “state piracy”.

Iraq, which counts its bigger neighbour Iran and the United States as its main allies, said on Tuesday Tehran had reassured it that there would be freedom of international maritime navigation in the Gulf.

Iran communicated this to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi during a visit by him to Tehran on Monday, the Iraqi oil ministry said in a statement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (gave) reassurances to the Iraqi delegation … around guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz and respect for international law guaranteeing that,” the statement said.

Iraq has sought a mediation role to calm U.S.-Iran tension in the region, fearing that any violent escalation between Washington and the Islamic Republic could play out on Iraqi soil, where both Iran-backed militias and U.S. forces operate in close proximity.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Alison Williams and Gareth Jones)