Gibraltar releases Iranian tanker hours after US asked to seize.

Iranian oil tanker anchored in the Strait of Gibraltar. Credit: Shutterstock

The authorities in Gibraltar on Thursday released an Iranian oil tanker they seized six weeks ago, defying a United States request hours earlier to detain the ship.
The Grace 1’s captain, an Indian national, and three officers were also released early on Thursday, according to local media. Gibraltar has said it expects the tanker to set sail soon.
The Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil (cargo worth of $140m), was seized by Royal Marines last month, as the UK claimed it was aiming to deliver oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Bashar al-Assad’s government has been subject to EU import sanctions since the early stages of the country’s ongoing civil war. The EU does not sanction Iranian oil exports.
The British detention of the Iranian ship prompted Iran to seize the British-flagged tanker the Stena Impero, which remains under the control of the country. Tension increased further when Britain sent out a second warship to the Gulf to offer greater protection to merchant shipping.
Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo reportedly lifted the detention order and said the government has received “formal written assurances” from the Iranian government that the ship will not discharge its cargo in Syria. According to local media, Gibraltar has said there are “no longer any grounds to keep Grace 1 detained”
However Britain has stated that Iran must abide by these assurances, and said it would not allow Iran or anyone to bypass European Union sanctions.
Earlier on Thursday, the US government applied to officially seize the ship from Gibraltar control. Iran’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad said the US faces “humiliation” with “its frantic last-minute efforts”.
Iran’s foreign minister used stronger language, saying the US had failed in its attempts at “economic terrorism” in the form of sanctions and described efforts to seize the ship as a “piracy attempt”.

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Cristina Hodgson

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