Open main menu

Iran Foreign Minister: Britain must admit to trespassing before soldiers are released

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said that Britain must admit to illegally entering Iranian waters before the 15 sailors and marines detained by Iran on March 23 are to be released.

"This [situation] can be solved. But they have to show that it was a mistake, that will help us to end this issue. Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem," Mottaki said during a summit in Saudi Arabia.

Britain has not yet responded to the comment.

According to a UK government report, the Iranian government initially gave the position of the incident as a location outside Iranian territorial waters. However, on March 24, General Alireza Afshar, Iran's top military general, stated that the sailors were engaged "in illegal and suspicious activities" inside Iranian waterways at the time of their detention and that the sailors "have admitted to violating the territorial waters of the Islamic republic".

After the UK government queried the statement by General Alireza Afshar, the Iranian government gave a revised position for the incident, now placing it inside Iranian territorial waters.

Cquote1.svg By the time HMS Cornwall knew that our forces had been detained unlawfully by the Iranians, they were in Iranian waters, and again military engagement would have put a lot of lives at risk. I think that they took the right decision... Cquote2.svg

Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister

Despite the increased tension, Mottaki stated that officials from Britain will be able to see the soldiers.

"We have accepted that [the request by Britain], there is no problem. Measures are underway [to allow officials to meet] them. They can meet them," said Mottaki.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called for the release of the soldiers saying "I'd like to see them released."

Ban has a scheduled meeting on Friday morning with Mottaki to discuss the current detainment of the British soldiers and plans to ask for their release.

The sailors and marines, from the frigate HMS Cornwall, had been inspecting, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1723, a ship that was believed to be smuggling cars into Iraq, though it was subsequently cleared after inspection, when Iranian gunboats surrounded the troops.

In parliament yesterday, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked about the rules of engagement for UK forces operating under a UN mandate in Iraqi waters. Blair suggested that "the rules of engagement do allow [UK] forces to take whatever measures are necessary in their own self-defence...I think that [the soldiers] took the right decision and did what was entirely sensible," said Blair in reference to the UK forces not engaging in military combat when first confronted by the Iranians.

Blair also commented on the response by the crew of HMS Cornwall. "By the time HMS Cornwall knew that our forces had been detained unlawfully by the Iranians, they were in Iranian waters, and again military engagement would have put a lot of lives at risk. I think that they took the right decision," said Blair.

Related News

Sources