DUBAI (Reuters) – A U.S.-led naval coalition in the Gulf has warned ships in the region to stay away from Iranian waters to avoid possible seizure, the U.S. Navy said.
The warning shows tensions remain high in and around the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran seized tankers in late April and early May, while Washington and Tehran finalise a deal to free five U.S. citizens detained in Iran and the U.S. allows $6 billion in Iranian funds held in South Korea to be unfrozen.
“The International Maritime Security Construct is notifying regional mariners of appropriate precautions to minimise 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 late on Saturday.
“Vessels are being advised to transit as far away from Iranian territorial waters as possible.”
About a fifth of the world’s crude oil and oil products pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a choke point between Iran and Oman at the mouth of the Gulf.
The deal to release U.S. citizens from Iranian prison and allow them to return to the U.S. would remove a major irritant between Washington and Tehran, which remain at odds on issues from the Iranian nuclear programme to Tehran’s support for regional Shi’ite militias.
The United States would release some Iranians from U.S. prisons as part of the deal, Iran’s mission to the United Nations has said.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by William Mallard)