PARIS (AP) — France says it’s working with its European partners on an observation mission to ensure maritime security in the Persian Gulf, where tensions have climbed with Iran’s seizure last week of a U.K.-flagged oil tanker.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made no mention of a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” announced a day earlier by his British counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, offering instead what seems to be a softer version.
France is working “at this moment on a European initiative” with Britain and Germany, he told lawmakers, without elaborating. “This vision is the opposite of the American initiative, which is … maximum pressure” against Iran.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von der Muhll said at briefing that the initiative involves “appropriate means of surveillance” aimed at “increased understanding of the situation at sea” to facilitate traffic in a waterway that is critical to the global economy.
Le Drian stressed the need to de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Iran’s seizure Friday of British oil tanker Steno Impero and its 23-member crew in the Strait of Hormuz aggravated tensions that were already mounting with Iran’s breaching of a 2015 Iran nuclear accord among world powers.
European nations that signed the Iran nuclear accord, which the United States under President Donald Trump withdrew from last year, reinstating sanctions on Iran.
Nations still party to the shaky Iran nuclear deal plan to meet in Vienna on Sunday to see to what extent the agreement can be saved. The European Union said the meeting of China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, chaired by the EU, “will examine issues linked to the implementation of the (nuclear deal) in all its aspects.”
Iran began openly exceeding the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure Europe into offsetting the economic pain of U.S. sanctions.
Le Drian stressed the need for diplomacy to de-escalate volatile tensions, which he has said previously could lead to “an accident.”