Russia has blamed the US for the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran after Britain claimed that Iranian boats had attempted to impede a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf waters.
"The situation is very concerning," said Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday, adding, "The reasons for this are clear. This is Washington's deliberate, premeditated course to exacerbate tensions."
This came after Ryabkov said on Wednesday that Moscow and Washington had “sharp differences” over Iran, among many other areas.
Ryabkov made the remarks during a meeting with US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, noting that the talks with his American opposite number highlighted those differences.
In a related development, speaking to journalists on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called “on everyone to behave with restraint in the Persian Gulf in order not to exacerbate the situation."
Britain claimed the confrontation on Wednesday saw three Iranian boats attempting to "impede the passage" of a commercial vessel called British Heritage, which is owned by British energy giant BP. This led a British warship moving between the three boats and warning them off, UK defense ministry officials said.
The incident followed Britain's detention off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 of a supertanker carrying Iranian oil.
Russia called Britain's actions "outrageous," saying they violated not only international law, but also European Union internal legislation.
China joins call for restraint
China has also called on all sides to avoid raising tensions in the Persian Gulf.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing hoped the parties involved can “maintain cool and restraint” and safeguard peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region.
Geng told reporters that China, a huge customer for oil and gas shipped through the strait, recognized the influence events in the region can have on the stability of the global supply of resources.
China was a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and has sought to keep it in effect, despite the US pulling out and re-imposing sanctions.
Tanker’s crewmen arrested
Also on Thursday, Royal Gibraltar Police said they had arrested the Indian captain and chief officer of the seized Iranian tanker suspected of breaching EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria.
"This follows a protracted search of the vessel where documents and electronic devices have been seized and examined," the police said in a statement.
Gibraltar police are interviewing both men, who have "been accorded their legal entitlements and access to consular representation," it added.
Gibraltar forces and British marines boarded the ship, Grace 1, and seized it on July 4 off the coast of Gibraltar, saying they believed it to be destined for Syria to deliver oil, which is subject to European sanctions.
Tests have shown the 330-meter (1,000-feet) tanker, which is capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was "carrying a full load of crude oil," the government of Gibraltar said Monday.
Iran has condemned the detention as an "illegal interception" and said the tanker was not headed to Syria.