Iran faces condemnation over attack on Israeli-owned ship

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and foreign ministers of G7 nations and the European Union on Friday issued a joint statement condemning Iran for carrying out a “deliberate and targeted attack” on an Israeli-owned shipping vessel last week that killed two of its international crew.

The statement serves as a show of international unity against Iran’s actions in the region and assigns the Islamic Republic responsibility for the attack that occurred off the coast of Oman, which they said violated international law that is meant to guarantee freedom of navigation in global shipping waters. 

G7 nations include the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom joined in the statement by the High Representative of the European Union.

“We condemn the unlawful attack committed on a merchant vessel off the coast of Oman on 29 July, which killed a British and a Romanian national. This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law. All available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack,” the statement read. 

The G7 nations and the E.U. further condemned Iran’s support for “proxy forces and non-state armed actors” as threatening international peace and security 

“We call on Iran to stop all activities inconsistent with relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and call on all parties to play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace.”

The statement follows the U.S., U.K. and Romania assigning blame to Iran for attacking the Israeli-owned Mercer Street vessel on July 29 with an explosive drone. 

Blinken on Wednesday spoke with U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on “ongoing efforts to forge a coordinated response to Iran’s attack,” according to a readout of the call. 

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday further said the U.S. suspected Iran was behind the attempted hijacking of another commercial vessel in the gulf of Oman, the Panama-flagged ship, Asphalt Princess, but could not confirm. 

“We believe that these personnel were Iranian, but we’re not in a position to confirm this at this time,” Price said at the time. 

Israel, which convened a meeting in Jerusalem of representatives of United Nations Security Council nations, raised the possibility of a retaliatory military strike on Iran for its attack on the Mercer Street. 

“Now is the time for deeds — words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds — otherwise the attacks will continue,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The international condemnation comes as the U.S., the Europeans, China and Russia are trying to work with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Yet discussions that have taken place since April have stalled amid Iran’s transition to a new presidential administration, with the inauguration of hard-line conservative President Ibrahim Raisi on Thursday.

Raisi, in reported remarks from his inauguration, expressed support for diplomatic efforts to relieve sanctions on the country. 

“The policy of pressure and sanctions will not make the Iranian people give up on their rights, including the right to development,” Raisi said, according to The New York Times. “The sanctions must be lifted. We will support any diplomatic plan that supports this goal.” 

The original terms of the JCPOA lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict limitations on its nuclear activities and intrusive oversight from the international community.

Former President Trump left the deal in 2018 and imposed a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions on Iran. The Islamic Republic began violating the terms of the deal in 2019 and Israel has warned that it is 10 weeks away from the capability of building a nuclear weapon.

State Department Spokesperson Price, in a briefing with reporters on Thursday, welcomed Raisi’s remarks about diplomacy but cautioned the U.S. is looking for action on the part of the Iranians. 

“That might suggest that there’s an appetite on the part of the new Iranian Government to engage in this diplomacy. We certainly hope that’s the case,” Price said.

“...But this is a new administration in Iran. We’ve heard their words, but to us, actions will speak louder. And the Iranians clearly have some decisions to make.”

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