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Gibraltar releases Iran tanker amid protests by US

August 15, 2019 at 5:39 pm

An Iranian oil tanker, Dena, seen approaching Port of Rotterdam, Holland on 15 December 2007 [AlfvanBeem/Wikipedia]

The government in Gibraltar has released an Iranian super-tanker after a series of court hearings and the refusal of demands filed by the United States (US) today.

The Iranian tanker, named Grace 1, was seized by the authorities and British naval forces in early July on the grounds that it was transporting oil to Syria, which would have been a violation of sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union (EU) and the United States (US).

After a month under detention and a court hearing today, however, Gibraltar’s government received assurances from Tehran that the tanker would not be unloading its cargo in Syria, in which an investigation had confirmed that the Grace 1 was indeed intending to transport the cargo to the Baniyas refinery in the war-torn country.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, announced: “In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1 in order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation.”

Picardo added that “the Grace 1 is therefore now released from detention under the Sanctions Act by operation of law as confirmed this afternoon by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

Iran FM: US turning Gulf region into ‘tinderbox’

Iran captured the British tanker Stena Impero as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz in response to British Naval forces seizing its vessel, however Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claiming that Tehran had not taken the step in retaliation but because the ship had violated international maritime laws by intruding in Iranian waters.

Over the past few weeks, neither Britain nor Iran have agreed to release each other’s vessels, with the former having refused earlier Iranian proposals to make a swap. Meanwhile, the government of Gibraltar has stated that it is seeking to “de-escalate” the situation over the captured tanker.

The release of the Iran’s tanker came amid an application filed by the US to block the release.

In a statement released soon after the US application was made, the government of Gibraltar announced today that “The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered. The matter will return to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar at 4:00 p.m. today.”

The move by the US to block its release, however, was ultimately refused and the process to release the tanker continued, sparking hope that the British tanker held by Iran would also be released and that relations between the two countries, as well as the situation in the Gulf, would improve and be resolved.