ANKARA - Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Thursday denied Tehran had ever tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, the vital shipping route at the centre of increasing international tension.
“Iran has never in its history tried to prevent, to put any obstacles in the way of this important maritime route,” he said in an interview with NTV television during a visit to Turkey.
Iran threatened in December to close the narrow and strategic waterway — a chokepoint for one fifth of the world’s traded oil — in the event of a military strike or the severe tightening of international sanctions.
That set up a tense standoff with the United States which sent a second aircraft carrier to the region as Tehran announced new naval maneuvers in the Strait within the next few weeks.
“We want peace and stability in the region ... But the Americans ... want to run certain countries from our zone,” Salehi added. “I appeal to all the countries of the region, please don’t let yourself be drawn into a dangerous position.” Washington should be willing to hold talks with Tehran with no preconditions, he said.
Iran’s military in 1987 and 1988 laid mines in the waters of the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf to make the channel hazardous for oil tankers from Iraq, with which it was at war. In April 1988, a US warship struck one of the mines and nearly sank.
The US military subsequently launched Operation Preying Mantis, destroying two Iranian oil platforms and several vessels.
Mines left over from that conflict, and from the 1990-1991 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, were being picked up in the coastal waters in the northern Gulf up to a decade later.