A prominent Tory MP has claimed joint naval drills between Iran, China and Russia are a warning to the UK - and urged “democracies” to “defend shared interests”.
Moscow said the drill, taking place in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, were an unprecedented exercise in naval cooperation and training.
Waters around Iran have become a focus for international tensions, with the United States exerting pressure for Iranian crude oil sales and other trade ties to be cut off.
"The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity... and its result will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated," Iranian flotilla admiral Gholamreza Tahani said on state television.
The Gulf of Oman is a particularly sensitive waterway as it connects to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes and which in turn connects to the Gulf.
Washington proposed a U.S.-led naval mission following several attacks in May and June on international merchant vessels, including Saudi tankers, in Gulf waters which the United States blamed on Iran. It denies the accusations.
On Boxing Day, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat warned against the operations between the three countries, which started on Friday in the Indian Ocean and the contested Gulf of Oman shipping route.
If we limit ourselves to regional action we will be unable to counter the global reach of others - our alliances should include India, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia as well as regional partners. https://t.co/jDKQjCLlMi— Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) December 27, 2019
Mr Tugendhat described the event as a “new world” and said the UK must forge “alliances with global partners” to counteract military threats.
He posted: “This... while the others sleep some act. This is the new world in which we must operate.
“We need to get together with mid-sized democracies and defend the interests we share.”
In a follow up tweet on Friday, the Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling continued: “If we limit ourselves to regional action we will be unable to counter the global reach of others - our alliances should include India, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia as well as regional partners.”
China said on Thursday it was sending a guided missile destroyer to the four-day drills, which it called a “normal military exchange” between the three armed forces. China has close diplomatic, trade and energy ties with Iran, which has friendly ties with Russia.
A Chinese military spokesman said: “It is not necessarily connected with the regional situation.”
President Donald Trump last year pulled the United States out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six nations and re-imposed sanctions on the country, crippling its economy.
Tension has risen in the region not only over Iran's disputed nuclear programme but also over a September attack on Saudi oil facilities blamed on Iran by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Iran also denies involvement in that.
Mr Tugendhat previously spoke against military action to free the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, seized by Iran in July, saying intervention “would not be a good choice”.
Mr Tugenhadt said it would be "extremely unwise" to seek a military solution to the crisis.
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