France, Germany, Britain working on maritime 'observation' mission in Gulf: Le Drian

FILE PHOTO - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

PARIS (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was working with European capitals to improve maritime security in the Persian Gulf but stopped short of backing Britain’s call for a naval mission to ensure safe shipping in the region.

Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday told lawmakers a de-escalation of tensions was needed several days after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in what London said was an act of “state piracy”.

“This is why we are setting up a European initiative, with Britain and Germany, to ensure that there is a mission to monitor and observe maritime security in the Gulf,” Le Drian said.

Washington proposed on July 9 stepping up efforts to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen where it blames Iran and its proxies for tanker attacks. Iran denies the charges.

“This is the opposite of the American initiative which is about maximum pressure to make Iran go back on a certain number of objectives,” Le Drian said.

“In that respect, we should even go further and think about a joint securitisation approach in the Gulf, diplomatically speaking. This way, we’ll really be in a logic of de-escalation,” he added, without elaborating.

Reporting by Sophie Louet; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Mathieu Rosemain and Michel Rose