Tanker row persists
An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean towards Greece yesterday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.” The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 pm on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive next Sunday at 0000 GMT.
The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a weeks-long stand-off between Tehran and the West. It also heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf. Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order on Thursday but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law. Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organisation. “We are happy this ordeal has ended and I hope this will lead to less escalation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while visiting Finland.
He also said the US warrant had no legal basis and was politically motivated to “make more escalation.” Greek authorities had no immediate comment on the situation. Iran said on Monday any US attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences.” Asked whether the United States could renew its seizure request after the tanker sailed from Gibraltar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such an action, and even the talk of it ... would endanger shipping safety in open seas.”
“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi said in remarks broadcast on state television. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.