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President Rouhani hopes for better ties with London under Johnson

President Hassan Rouhani has offered congratulations to Boris Johnson on his election as the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, expressing hope for closer ties between Tehran and London under his leadership.

According to Press TV, in a Sunday message, Rouhani referred to Johnson’s 2017 visit to Tehran and his familiarity with Iran-UK relations as a positive point that can “contribute to removing the existing obstacles on the path of development of relations between the two countries.”

“I hope that … we witness further deepening of bilateral and multilateral relations during your tenure as the Prime Minister,” the Iranian president said, wishing success for Johnson in his new position.

Back on Tuesday, Johnson won the leadership of the Conservative Party to become the UK’s next prime minister, replacing outgoing Theresa May.

Johnson won 92,153 votes by members of the Tories. His main rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, won 46,656.

Rouhani’s message to Johnson came amid heightening tension between Iran and the UK, both of which have impounded an oil tanker belonging to the other side.

The UK first illegally seized the oil tanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month, claiming that the supertanker was carrying Iran’s oil to Syria in violation of the EU sanctions. Iran, however, denied that the ship was bound for Syria.

Later, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized a British-flagged oil tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, southern Iran, over its violation of international maritime rules.

In comments made after Johnson’s swearing-in, Rouhani had sent a positive signal to London, vowing that the UK will be given a “proportionate response” if it released the Iranian vessel.

“We are not after keeping up tensions with certain European countries. If they abide by international regulations and stop taking unlawful measures like what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a befitting response from Iran,” Rouhani added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also sent a congratulatory message to Johnson shortly after his election, giving him assurances that “Iran does not seek confrontation.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Johnson’s father said he is confident his son has what it takes to end the ongoing tensions between Iran and Britain, as the two sides continue to trade barbs after impounding each other’s oil tankers.

In an interview with Press TV shortly after his son won the race for Britain’s new PM, Stanley Johnson said he was looking forward to see Boris “building bridges with Iran.”

Johnson said his son understood history and adored Iran, given the country’s long history.

“Iran means so much to him, so the chance to have long-standing relationship with a country with such a fantastic history,” he continued.