FILE PHOTO: Royal Navy vessel HMS Montrose at sea during Baltic Operations in this photo taken June 15, 2014. Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Adam C. Stapleton/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s navy will accompany UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz to provide protection after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in an air strike, inflaming tensions in the region.
Britain was forced to escort its ships through the world’s most important waterway for oil shipments for a time last year after Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait.
British forces had previously captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar that was accused of violating sanctions on Syria. The killing of Soleimani has raised fears that tankers could be targeted again.
British defence minister Ben Wallace said he had ordered the HMS Montrose and HMS Defender to prepare to return to escort duties for all ships sailing under a British merchant flag.
Wallace said he had spoken to his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and urged restraint on all sides.
“Under international law, the United States is entitled to defend itself against those posing an imminent threat to their citizens,” he added.
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Kevin Liffey