The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said that security forces recently came to the aid of a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, hours after reports that Iran might have seized a tanker from the United Arab Emirates in the area.
Abbas Mousavi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that Iranian forces had rushed to the aid of an unidentified tanker that had sent a distress call after a “technical glitch,” according to reports Tuesday night from the semiofficial Iranian news agency Press TV. He said that tugboats had towed it toward Iranian waters for repairs.
Mr. Mousavi did not say what nation the ship was from, who owned it or what its current status was. He said more information would come later.
The comments came after reports that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran may have seized a United Arab Emirates tanker in the Persian Gulf over the weekend. Such a move would be the latest in a series of confrontations in the region that have raised fears of an armed conflict.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that an Emirati tanker with a Panama flag, the Riah, disappeared while passing through the Strait of Hormuz late Saturday. The report cited a United States defense official who said there were suspicions that the tanker had been seized by the Revolutionary Guards.
The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, and 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through the narrow waterway. In recent weeks, it has been the site of several tense episodes that have increasingly strained the relationship between Iran and the United States.
Early this month, British forces seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria, in violation of European Union sanctions. Iranian officials said the seizure occurred at the request of the United States, and warned of retaliatory action.
British officials said last week that Iranian forces has tried to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian boats backed off after the British naval vessel issued “verbal warnings.”
Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States said the incidents were attacks by Iran, which Tehran has denied. Last month, Iran downed an American surveillance drone in the same area, a move that nearly resulted in military strikes by the United States.
Last year, President Trump pulled the United States from the 2015 agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.
After the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran in May, Tehran set a deadline for the deal’s European signatories to come up with a strategy to ease the economic impact. Since that deadline expired, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.