‘Destination a concern’
Britain would be willing to release a loaded Iranian oil tanker seized off the coast of Gibraltar this month if Iran can guarantee that its cargo would not go to Syria, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday.
Mr. Hunt said he had had a “constructive” phone call with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and told him that the UK would facilitate the release of the tanker “following due process” in Gibraltar’s courts. The tanker was seized on June 4 by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria.
Iran has demanded Britain release the ship and denies it was taking oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Mr. Hunt’s talks with Mr. Zarif come just days after Britain said Iranian boats attempted to block a British-owned tanker sailing through the Strait of Hormuz before being deterred by a British warship.
The confrontation prompted Britain to despatch a destroyer to Arabian Gulf to help protect shipping. The British foreign secretary said his Iranian counterpart had told him that Iran wanted to resolve the issue and was not seeking to escalate tensions. “I reassured him our concern was a destination not the origin of the oil on Grace One and that the UK would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in (Gibraltar) courts,” Mr. Hunt wrote on Twitter.