US General Says Will Work 'Aggressively' to Enable Free Passage in the Gulf
US Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said on Thursday talks were under way with other countries about freedom of navigation in the Gulf and would work “aggressively” to find a solution to enable free passage.
Washington has boosted its military presence in the Middle East over a perceived Iranian threat and is asking allies to help protect strategic waters off Iran and Yemen.
This came following attacks on oil tankers in Gulf waters in recent months, Reuters reported.
“We are currently talking with the international community about the right to freedom of navigation in the Middle East that will include passage to the Strait of Hormuz and passage to the Bab al Mandeb,” Mckenzie said.
Mckenzie comments came before Iranian state TV broadcast a report that Iran had seized a foreign tanker smuggling fuel in the Gulf.
The US general was talking to reporters in Riyadh at a joint news conference with General Prince Fahd bin Turki, commander of the Saudi-led coalition.
Asked if Saudi Arabia would have a role in a proposed international maritime security coalition, Prince Fahd said the coalition would continue to escort ships in the Red Sea.
“We have been doing that for the past few years and we have achieved great success in spite of some damage to civilian shipping,” Prince Fahd said.
“So we’ve been active in this field, we are practicing this at the Red Sea at Bab al Mandeb,” he added.
According to Reuters, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Gulf, state television quoted Iran’s elite force as saying in a statement on Thursday.
“A foreign vessel smuggling one million litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized,” the station said, adding that the ship was seized on Sunday.