Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday penned an open letter to Britain’s new prime minister, saying he hopes the countries’ diplomatic ties will be stronger under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Johnson took office on Wednesday amid a spike in tensions in the Persian Gulf and a diplomatic standoff between Britain and Iran. Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz this month after the British navy helped seize an Iranian super tanker loaded with crude oil near Gibraltar.
In the letter published Sunday on Rouhani’s website, the Iranian president congratulated Johnson on becoming prime minister Wednesday.
Rouhani said he hoped Johnson’s “only one visit to Tehran” while serving as U.K. foreign secretary in 2017 and now his tenure as prime minister lead to a “further deepening of bilateral and multilateral relations.”
Tehran’s ultra-conservative Resaalat newspaper published a cartoon Wednesday of Johnson as a British butler being patted on the head by Trump in the Oval Office.
“British Trump,” the banner of the reformist Sazandegi said.
Johnson is yet to publicly comment on last Friday’s capture by masked Iranian soldiers of the Stena Impero oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Gulf.
He will be expected to do so now.
His decision to push ahead with a European effort to secure the world’s busiest oil shipping lane would still need to be coordinated with US forces in proximity to Iran.
Centre for European Reform foreign policy director Ian Bond, a retired diplomat who served in Washington and NATO, said Johnson might actually win Trump’s favour by shepherding European navies to the Gulf.
Tensions have been escalating between the United States and Iran since Trump last year withdrew the US from a global nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.