Looking to boost trade, Italy drills with Iran in strategic strait
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Looking to boost trade, Italy drills with Iran in strategic strait

Joint maneuvers in Hormuz come after Italian frigate makes rare stop in Bandar Abbas, as Rome seeks to reclaim position as top economic partner

Illustrative photo of an Iranian warship (Alex Hicks, Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative photo of an Iranian warship (Alex Hicks, Wikimedia Commons)

TEHRAN — An Italian frigate has held maneuvers with two Iranian warships in the Strait of Hormuz after making a rare Western port call in the Islamic Republic, an Iranian commander said Wednesday.

The joint maneuvers in the strategic waterway between the Gulf and the Sea of Oman come after a series of incidents between Iranian vessels and US warships in the area in recent months.

The Italian frigate Euro sailed to the strait for the maneuvers with Iranian ships Alvand and Alborz after making the port call in Bandar Abbas on Saturday, Admiral Hossein Azad told the official IRNA news agency.

An Iranian and an Italian helicopter also took part, he said.

Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Italian ambassador Mauro Conciatori as describing the port call as “a positive sign in mutual relations that can increase the bond between the two countries.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, gestures next to Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni as they attend an Iran-Italy business forum in Rome on January 26, 2016. (AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, gestures next to Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni as they attend an Iran-Italy business forum in Rome on January 26, 2016. (AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO)

Italy was Iran’s largest trading partner before the European Union joined the United States in imposing sanctions — now lifted — over Tehran’s nuclear program.

It has been keen to restore that position and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in April became the highestzranking European leader to visit Iran since its nuclear deal with world powers in July last year.

Rome’s policy contrasts strongly with that of Washington, which has accused Iran of repeated dangerous encounters with the US Navy in and around the Strait of Hormuz in recent months.

On September 10, two US maritime patrol aircraft were flying separate missions in international airspace over the waterway when Iranian air defence batteries threatened to fire on them if they did not change course, the Pentagon said.

It followed at least five incidents over the previous month, that prompted US criticism of the Iranian military for its behavior in the Gulf.

Tehran denied its vessels had been at fault.

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