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News, July 2019
One More Step Towards War on Iran: British Navy Ships Detain Iranian Oil Tanker Near Gibraltar
July 5, 2019
Iran demands Britain release oil tanker held in Gibraltar
AFP, July 5, 2019
Iran demanded Friday that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it has detained in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States.
A senior foreign ministry official "described the UK move as unacceptable" in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire, who had been summoned to hear a formal protest, the ministry said in a statement.
He "called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available", the statement added.
Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain's southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean, said they suspected the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The detention of the 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1 vessel comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it is poised to breach the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal.
The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.
The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometres) south of Gibraltar in what it considers British waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish.
It was boarded when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to vessels.
"We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria," Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.
"That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.
"We have detained the vessel and its cargo," Picardo said.
At US request
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told reporters the vessel was detained at the request of the United States.
In a statement, Britain's Foreign Office said "we welcome this firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime".
European Union sanctions against war-torn Syria have been in force since late 2011.
The 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the "violent repression" of civilians.
It has frozen the assets of around 70 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the EU.
The tanker's detention comes just days after Iran announced it would exceed the uranium enrichment limit set up as part of the 2015 deal to avoid it building up to the level required for a nuclear warhead.
Tehran took the action in response to Washington abandoning the nuclear deal last year and hitting Iran's crucial oil exports and financial transactions with biting sanctions.
The unilateral move has sent tensions in the Gulf soaring as the administration of President Donald Trump forges ahead with a policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran in coordination with its Middle East allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy towards Tehran, applauded the interception of the supertanker.
"Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions," Bolton tweeted.
According to specialised shipping trade publication Lloyd's List, which analyses vessel-tracking data, the 1997-built ship is laden with Iranian oil.
It reported that the ship loaded oil off Iran in April and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Ex-IRGC Commander Calls for Retaliating UK Move with Seizing British Tanker
July 5, 2019, TEHRAN (FNA)-
Former Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Mohsen Rezayee said on Friday that seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by London in Spanish territorial waters must be reciprocated with detaining a British tanker if the seized Iranian tanker is not released immediately.
Rezayee, who is now secretary of the Expediency Council vetting body said in a tweet in Farsi, that Iran should seize a British oil tanker if London doesn’t return the Iranian tanker which was illegally seized by its forces on Thursday in Gibraltar.
“The Islamic Revolution was never an initiator of tensions during its 40-year-old history, however, it has not hesitated to respond to bullies. If UK doesn’t return the Iranian tanker, the duty of responsible [Iranian] bodies is to seize a British oil tanker in a retaliatory measure,” he tweeted Friday in Persian.
According to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, British Ambassador to Tehran Rob Macaire appeared before the Director of the Third Department of Western Europe at the ministry who described the UK move as unacceptable, and called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available.
Pointing to the fact that the oil tanker was sailing in the international waters, the Iranian diplomat described the British forces’ conduct as being tantamount to maritime banditry and stressed that London has no right to impose its own unilateral sanctions or those of the European Union in an extraterritorial manner against the other countries.
This is the very bullying policy of the US, about which the European countries have been always protesting, he added.
In the meeting, the UK ambassador was provided with the documentation about the oil tanker and its cargo indicating the ship’s completely legal movement.
It was also emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran will be employing all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.
The UK ambassador said he will immediately convey the protest to London, stressing that the UK does not follow the unilateral US sanctions against Iran.
Later in the day, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi took part in an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)’s News Network, saying, "We declared to the ambassador that this move amounts to strange unconventionality, because the sanctions that they have announced are not based on the Security Council [resolutions] and the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept this measure (seizure of the tanker).”
The Iranian diplomat further stated that the Spanish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the move was made at the request of the US and that the seizure amounted to “implementation of a type of extraterritorial sanctions despite the fact that the European Union has invariably been against such bans.”
Mousavi said that Iran denounces the seizure as “a destructive step”, which contributes to further escalation in regional tensions.
Citing a Spanish source, France 24 reported earlier that the tanker had been seized by Britain at the US request.
Later in the day, acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Gibraltar detained the supertanker Grace 1 after a request by the United States to Britain.
Borrell was quoted by Reuters as saying that Spain was looking into the seizure of the ship and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty as it appears to have happened in Spanish waters.
Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.
Britain's Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Experts believe that the measure taken by the British government in seizing the Syria-bound Iranian tanker is illegal and can have serious consequences for the government in London.
Since Iran's tanker was carrying fuel and oil to Syrian people for solely humanitarian purposes, the measure taken by the British government is not only illegal, but also inhumane.
Iran and Syria enjoy vast commercial and trade ties and under the international law, Britain has no right to interfere in their relations.
The US has avowed an intention to reduce Iran’s oil exports to “zero” as part of the sanctions that it reinstated after leaving a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran last year. Both Washington’s withdrawal from the deal and its reintroduction of the sanctions came while the accord has been ratified in the form of the United Nations Security Resolution 2231.
Europe has suspended its trade with Iran, knuckling under the sanctions, despite being obliged by the agreement to safeguard Iran’s business interests.
Earlier this week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reminded the deal’s European partners that they had undertaken 11 commitments to the country under the nuclear accord.
These, he added, include Iran’s oil sales, secure financial returns from the sales, and investment in Iran, as well as facilitation of transport, aviation, and shipping activities involving the country.
Observers deem the seizure of the tanker on Washington’s apparent orders to be another instance of the European states’ non-commitment to the deal.
London has been for long blamed for following the US in anti-Iran policies, and in a most recent case of the British officials echoing Washington’s anti-Tehran rhetoric, last month, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country would consider requests for military support “on a case-by-case basis”.
Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt said the UK government was “constantly in touch” with the US over the tense situation in the Persian Gulf.
He said, “We will stand by the United States as our strongest ally but of course we have to consider any requests for military support on a case-by-case basis.”
He further repeated the Trump administration’s baseless allegations against Iran, including a tanker attack in the Sea of Oman, which Washington blamed on Tehran with no credible evidence.
It seems that in the Persian Gulf arena Britain is confusing diplomacy with warmongering and failing to make the desired impact.
Two weeks ago, Britain’s junior foreign office minister Andrew Murrison was on a mission to Tehran.
During his visit to Tehran Murrison echoed Hunt’s unfounded accusation against Iran by urging Iranian officials to stop what he calls “attacks” in the Gulf of Oman.
However, London’s deceptive maneuvers fell on deaf ears in Tehran as Murrison was shunned by high-ranking officials, including Foreign Minister Zarif. More embarrassingly for Murrison, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, the political deputy at the Iranian foreign ministry, dismissed him as an “inexperienced” diplomat.
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