By Steven Erlanger
Iran for the first time tied the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker to the ailing nuclear deal Sunday, calling it illegal and a violation of the agreement.
By making that link, Iran appeared to be trying to press the Europeans to make good on the promised financial benefits of the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
“Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran’s export of oil is actually against the JCPOA,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said after emergency talks in Vienna with other parties to the nuclear deal.
The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal last year, but Iran and Europe are in talks to try to salvage it.
British forces impounded the Iranian tanker in early July near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating European Union sanctions on Syria, an act Britain said had nothing to do with the nuclear deal.
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On July 19, Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important waterway for oil shipments, arguing that it had committed violations but formally denying that it was a tit-for-tat response.
Since then, Iran has blown hot and cold over suggestions that both sides release the tankers and Tehran promises not to send the oil to Syria, in part because London insists that the decision on what to do with the Iranian tanker must go through the courts.
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Iran also warned against the British idea of sending a European-led naval force to escort tankers in the Persian Gulf, where the United States has increased its military presence. A government spokesman in Tehran, Ali Rabiei, said the proposal “carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions.”
At the same time Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran congratulated the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and said that he hoped that Johnson’s “familiarity with the issues of the relations of Iran and England and your presence once in Tehran will be a considerable help in getting rid of existing obstacles in the growth and expansion of relations between us.”
Johnson visited Tehran in 2017 as foreign secretary.