Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi denied Thursday that Tehran had ever tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, the vital shipping route at the centre of increasing international tensions.
“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 a severe tightening of international sanctions.
Its threat set up a tense standoff with the United States which sent a second aircraft carrier to the region as Tehran announced new naval manoeuvres 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 said. “I appeal to all countries of the region, please don’t let yourself be drawn into a dangerous position.”
He also said Washington should be willing to hold talks with Tehran without preconditions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meanwhile, reiterated that Iran and six Western powers were ready to restart talks on Tehran’s nuclear drive which were suspended a year ago.
“Both parties have expressed their wish to meet and to resume discussions,” he said at a press conference with Salehi.
“Now it is up to the parties to decide on a place and date,” the minister said, confirming that Turkey was ready to host the talks. The last round was held in Istanbul in January 2011.
He said Turkey believes a rapid resumption of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, would help to ease tensions on the nuclear dispute.
Tehran has repeatedly said it is willing to resume the talks.
But the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the world powers, has said it is still waiting for Tehran to formally respond to a letter sent in October offering to return to the discussions.
During the 1980s war with Iraq, 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.
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.