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US-led naval group warns vessels to avoid Iranian waters

The move is intended to protect vessels against possible seizure by Iran, according to the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

The “USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier sails in the Arabian Sea near the amphibious assault ship “USS Kearsarge,” equipped with vertical landing and takeoff aircraft and more than 1,600 Marines, May 15, 2019. Credit: U.S. Navy.
The “USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier sails in the Arabian Sea near the amphibious assault ship “USS Kearsarge,” equipped with vertical landing and takeoff aircraft and more than 1,600 Marines, May 15, 2019. Credit: U.S. Navy.

A U.S.-led naval coalition in the Persian Gulf has warned ships to avoid Iranian waters and possible seizure.

Tensions remain high in and around the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran seized oil tankers in late April and early May, Reuters reported.

About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products traverse the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow sea passage between Iran and Oman at the mouth of the Gulf.

“The International Maritime Security Construct is notifying regional mariners of appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of seizure based on current regional tensions, which we seek to de-escalate,” Commander Timothy Hawkins, spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet, said on Saturday.

“Vessels are being advised to transit as far away from Iranian territorial waters as possible,” he added.

The warning comes as Iran and the United States negotiate a deal, announced on Aug. 10, to secure the release of U.S. citizens held by the Islamic Republic.  

Tehran transferred the American detainees to house arrest and Washington moved to unfreeze $6 billion-plus in sanctioned Iranian funds held in South Korea.

Seoul owed the sum to the Islamic Republic for oil purchased before the Trump administration re-imposed penalties on such transactions following its withdrawal in 2018 from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night slammed the emerging U.S.-Iran deal.

“Israel’s position is known: Arrangements that do not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure do not stop its nuclear program and only provide it with funds that go to terrorist elements sponsored by Iran,” said Netanyahu.

The United States will also release some Iranians from U.S. prisons as part of the deal, according to Iran’s mission to the United Nations, Reuters reported.

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