Friday, March 23, 2007

Commander of HMS Cornwall says seizure of sailors by Iran may have been 'simple misunderstanding'

Above: A British patrol in the Shatt al Arab waterway. Left: The Shatt al Arab waterway separates Iraq from Iran.

Fifteen British sailors and Royal Marines were today seized at gunpoint by Iranian warships off Iraq, prompting a major diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened between Tehran and the West.

The commanding officer of the ship - which arrived in the Gulf ten days ago to defend Iraq’s oil industry in the area – said that contact had been lost with the group after they had carried out the search of the cargo boat.

Commodore Nick Lambert said his staff were all believed to be safe and he hoped the incident was the result of a “misunderstanding” that had occurred in waters whose ownership was a highly contentious matter.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in Iranian territorial waters,” he said.

“The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated. We may find, and I hope we will find, that this is a simple misunderstanding at a tactical level,” he added, saying that every effort was being made to secure the release of the boarding party.

Read the rest at the Times of London

Related Link:
Iran seizes 15 British HMS Cornwall sailors at boundary of territorial waters