EU member states have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian crude oil to put pressure on the country over its nuclear programme.From Sky News:
The move is expected to be announced formally at an EU foreign ministers' meeting at the end of January.
The US, which recently imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, welcomed the news.
The UK would respond militarily if Iran carries out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the Defence Secretary has warned.
Philip Hammond used a speech in Washington DC to warn Iran that any attempt to close the key Gulf trade route would be "unsuccessful" and could be stopped in part by the Royal Navy.
"Any attempt by Iran to do this would be illegal and unsuccessful," he said in a speech at the Atlantic Council.
"Our joint naval presence in the Arabian Gulf, something our regional partners appreciate, is key to keeping the Strait of Hormuz open for international trade.
"It is in all our interests that the arteries of global trade are kept free, open and running. Disruption to the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz would threaten regional and global economic growth."
Iran has threatened to block the 34-mile wide strait in retaliation for a planned EU trade embargo on Iranian oil.
From Christian Science Monitor:
If Iran is hoping that China will buy more of its oil to make up the exports it is slated to lose because of a European embargo on Tehran’s crude it will be disappointed, Chinese analysts here predict.From NYT:
Beijing “will not take the risk for Iran’s benefit” of angering the United States and becoming too dependent on one source of oil, says Ma Xiaolin, a commentator on Middle East affairs and head of the Beijing-based BLSHE economic consultancy.
If Iran were to follow through with its threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit route for almost one-fifth of the oil traded globally, the impact would be immediate: Energy analysts say the price of oil would start to soar and could rise 50 percent or more within days.(h/t Ian)