شنبه ۲۰ آذر ۱۳۹۵ تهران ۰۷:۱۹ - ۱۰ دسامبر ۲۰۱۶
Royal Navy servicemen said Iranian guards captured them after they "forcibly escorted them into Iranian territorial waters," Britain’s Defense Secretary Geof Hoon said in a letter to British parliament. “We are surprised by the British defense minister’s incorrect remarks,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said on Thursday. The eight Royal Navy servicemen, who were captured last week for entering Iranian waters, “have said that they were operating inside the Iraqi border and were forcibly escorted into Iranian territorial waters,” Britain’s Defense Secretary Geof Hoon said in a letter to British parliament.
The six marines and two sailors had satellite-guided navigation gear and up-to-date maritime charts that should have prevented them from misjudging the border, the statement said.
Iran held the servicemen for three days until June 25, parading them blindfolded on TV and forcing them to make statements apologizing for their “mistake.”
“We are surprised by the British defense minister’s incorrect remarks,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said on Thursday. “Upon taking custody of the British sailors, the British Charge d’Affairs in Tehran signed a letter confirming that they had entered Iranian territorial waters illegally and unintentionally,” he added.
The British sailors were captured 1000 meters inside Iran’s territorial waters, a spokesman of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ navy said on the day of the arrest, adding that the British crewmen had advanced communications equipment, weapons and global positioning devices in their three vessels.
The servicemen were conducting a routine patrol from Umm Qasar to Basra on the Shatt al Arab waterway dividing Iran and Iraq near the southernmost part of the Al Faw Peninsula, Hoon's statement said.
British personnel are trained to observe the normal rules of maritime navigation and are issued with modern charts and equipment,” Hoon added. “This should be sufficient to prevent inadvertent digressions across the border and we are not aware of any previous allegations that the border has been violated.”
Hoon stopped short of criticizing Iran. He noted the deadline Britain set for Iran to return the three boats that carried the servicemen passed yesterday without action. He said the navigation kit on those boats may answer exactly where the servicemen were when the incident happened.
The incident may complicate Iran’s talks with Britain and other nations about its nuclear program, observers say. The British ambassador in Tehran is pressing the servicemen’s case with foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi “on a daily basis,” Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman Tom Kelly said in London on Thursday.