Berlin/Beirut : A key ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for Europe to set up its own naval taskforce in the Gulf independent of the US.

Amid a divide between Western allies over how to deal with Iran, Norbert Rottgen called Thursday for France and Germany to lead a European mission to protect shipping from Iran.

The UK has sought to build consensus for an international taskforce following the seizure of a British-flagged tanker by Iran. But France and Germany have rejected calls to contribute warships to a US-led mission over concerns at Donald Trump’s aggressive stance towards Iran.

Rottgen, who is chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, called for Europe to go it alone. “The reasons for a European mission in the Gulf remain, even if Britain should decide on a joint mission with the US,” he said.

“It’s about European interests, not specific British ones, so a European mission should be made up of a group of European states, to which France and Germany must belong.”

Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, initially called for a European-led taskforce in response to the seizure of the Stena Impero last month.

But Boris Johnson’s government has shifted the UK position, with Dominic Raab, the new Foreign Secretary, suggesting a European mission may not be “viable” without US support.

Rottgen made the comments amid signs of a rift in Mrs Merkel’s coalition government over the issue.

Olaf Scholz, the vice-chancellor, appeared to rule out German contributing to a US-led taskforce on Wednesday, only to be contradicted by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the defence minister, who said the proposal was still being considered.