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Iran Urges Britain to Release Oil Tanker Held in Gibraltar

TEHRAN – The Gibraltar authorities have intercepted the Iranian super-oil tanker suspected of violating the sanctions imposed by the European Union by carrying a cargo of crude oil from Tehran to Syria ravaged by the war, TRT World reported on Friday.
Iran on Friday demanded that Britain immediately release an oil tanker, that it had arrested in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the request of the United States.
A senior Foreign Ministry official “described the UK approach as unacceptable” at a meeting with the British ambassador to Tehran, summoned to attend an official protest, the ministry said in a statement.
He “called for the immediate release of the tanker, knowing that it was seized at the request of the United States, based on information currently available,” the statement added.
The Gibraltar authorities announced Thursday that they have arrested supertanker Grace 1, suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria, according to a legal source, which could be the first such interception under EU sanctions.
EU sanctions against the Syrian regime came into effect in May 2011, shortly after the start of the bloody crackdown on regime leader Bashar al-Assad against pro-democracy protesters is transformed into a protracted war.
According to Refinitiv Eikon mapping, the Iranian crude oil laden with Grace 1 on April 17, and if that were confirmed, the attempted delivery to Syria could also be a violation of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton welcomed the decision, saying the United States and its allies would continue to prevent the Syrian and Iranian governments “from profiting from this illegal trade.”
Iran, a close ally of Assad, is also subject to a US sanctions regime meant to ban any international sale of Iranian oil, imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from last year’s nuclear deal concluded by the world powers in 2015 with Tehran.
In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that Grace 1 was transporting its cargoes of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria.
“This refinery is owned by an entity subject to EU sanctions against Syria,” said Gibraltar’s head of government, Fabian Picardo.
“With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies have asked the Royal Marines for help to carry out this operation.”
The areas controlled by the Syrian regime suffered severe fuel shortages earlier this year, following what Assad called an economic seat.
In May, Syria received its first supplies of foreign oil for six months with the arrival of two cargoes, including one from Iran, said a source close to the cargo at the time.
The Gibraltar government issued Wednesday a regulation to apply sanctions against the tanker and its cargo.
A spokesman for the British Foreign Ministry said: “We welcome this strong action by the Gibraltar authorities, acting to enforce the EU’s sanctions regime against Syria.”
Earlier this year, Reuters revealed that Grace 1 was one of four oil tankers involved in transporting Iranian fuel oil to Singapore and China, in violation of US sanctions.
The Refinitiv Eikon map data indicates that Grace 1 has taken a longer route to reach the mouth of the Mediterranean around the southern tip of Africa, instead of passing through the Suez Canal in Egypt.
The tanker was documented to be loading oil into Iraq in December, although the Iraqi port did not indicate it as being in port and its tracking system was deactivated.
The tanker then reappeared on tracking cards near the Iranian port of Bandar Assaluyeh, at full load.
Marine data indicates that the vessel is a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker weighing 300,000 tones, managed by Singapore-based IShips Management Pte Ltd.
Iran’s crude oil exports reached about 300,000 barrels a day or less at the end of June, industry sources said, a fraction of the 2.5 million bpd shipped by Iran in April 2018, the month before the withdrawal of the Trump nuclear deal.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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