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‘You can always rely on Australia’: Gulf commitment welcomed in US, UK

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Australia’s commitment had shown the importance of maintaining the rules-based order and freedom of navigation right around the world.

A speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guard trains a weapon towards the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

A speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trains a weapon towards the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.Credit:AP

“I am delighted to see Australia join the international effort to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” Wallace, who was appointed to the role by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.

“Freedom of navigation is in the interest of every nation and is vital for international trade.

“It is clear to see that we are all safer when we are united behind the international rules-based order.”

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One of Wallace’s predecessors, Sir Michael Fallon, said Australia had again showed it was a reliable ally and urged other countries to join the mission.

“You can always rely on Australia to step up,” Sir Michael said.

“It’s up to other countries too to help guard this key international waterway.”

Across the Atlantic, Australia’s contribution was equally lauded.

US congressman Joe Courtney, co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Australia Caucus, said: “This shows Australia is standing up for rules-based maritime law.

“Keeping these shipping lanes open and free is in the country’s economic and national security interests.

“Australia is no stranger to that part of the world and will make an important contribution.”

Courtney, a Democrat who is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Morrison government had struck the right tone in its announcement by stressing that it was not seeking to increase tensions with Iran.

“Australia is not looking for trouble here, it is looking to maintain peaceful maritime transit,” Courtney said.

“I don’t see this as part of a military build up or an intervention.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would heed the US and Britain’s call to join the mission, saying the government had been concerned with the seizure of commercial vessels in the Straits of Hormuz.

“This destabilising behaviour is a threat to Australian interests in the region, particularly our enduring interest in the security of global sea lanes of communication,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

He said with 16 per cent of crude oil and up to 30 per cent of refined oil destined for Australia via the Strait, any disruption was a potential threat to Australia’s economy.

“Australia strongly supports the global norms and rules concerning freedom of navigation, particularly under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, whether that’s in the Middle East or indeed closer to home,” he said.

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