Germany won't join US-led naval force in Gulf, foreign minister says

A US Marine ranges nearby boats from aboard the USS John P. Murtha during a Strait of Hormuz transit in July 2019.
A US Marine ranges nearby boats from aboard the USS John P. Murtha during a Strait of Hormuz transit in July 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS
A US Marine observes Iranian fast attack craft from aboard the USS John P. Murtha during a Strait of Hormuz transit.
A US Marine observes Iranian fast attack craft from aboard the USS John P. Murtha during a Strait of Hormuz transit.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WARSAW/BRUSSELS (DPA) - Germany will not participate in a US-led naval security mission in the Gulf, the foreign minister said on Wednesday (July 31).

Washington asked Berlin to help safeguard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz after Iran's recent seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker, in a major heightening of tensions between Iran and the West.

The narrow waterway off Iran is a vital artery for oil producers in the Middle East, enabling them to access buyers around the globe.

"The German government will not take part in the maritime mission presented and planned by the United States," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said while on an official trip to Poland.

He said Germany disagreed with Washington's approach towards Iran and is not seeking a military escalation to the crisis.

The US and Britain have been seeking to establish a mission to prevent Iran from seizing further oil tankers, after Tehran impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero and the Panama-flagged MT Riah in mid-July in the Strait of Hormuz.

Several EU member states have expressed an interest in the proposal to ensure safe travel of cargo.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said earlier on Wednesday that Berlin had examined the request "in close coordination" with European naval powers Britain and France.

But she said Germany wanted to focus its efforts on diplomacy, reiterating that Berlin is committed to saving the Iran nuclear deal, which the US pulled out from.

Kramp-Karrenbauer was in Brussels, her first time abroad since she took over as defence minister from Ursula von der Leyen, who will become European Commission president in November.

The United States has a major stake in the naval spat: It has launched a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran in the wake of its exit from the 2015 nuclear accord and has repeatedly accused Iran of military aggressions in the region.

Washington said earlier this month it was attempting to put together a coalition of countries that would offer military escorts to commercial ships in the Gulf. The Pentagon has also announced the deployment of additional troops and military assets in the region.

Last week, Britain said it also wanted to created a maritime security mission to ensure safe travel of cargo in Gulf and that the mission could potentially complement efforts by the US.