Moscow condemns seizure of Iranian tanker

July 6, 2019

TEHRAN – The Russian Foreign Ministry has slammed Britain for seizing an Iran-operated supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

In a Friday statement carried by Tass news agency, the ministry criticized the move as a “deliberate step” to worsen the situation around Iran and Syria.

“We condemn the seizure of a supertanker flying the Panamanian flag committed on July (4) by the Gibraltar authorities who were backed by UK Royal Marines,” it said.

“We consider the detention of the vessel and its cargo as a deliberate step geared to further aggravate the situation around Iran and Syria. Commentaries by UK and U.S. officials that came immediately after this operation only prove these assessments and indicate that this operation had been plotted beforehand and involved corresponding services and agencies of several countries,” it added.

On early Thursday morning, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed the 300,000-ton Grace 1 and detained it, accusing it of carrying oil to Syria in possible violation of the European Union’s sanctions on the war-torn Arab country.

Iran has condemned the move as “maritime piracy” and summoned Britain’s ambassador in protest. It has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

A top court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar ruled late Friday that the Iranian supertanker could be detained for up to 14 more days.

“The Supreme Court has issued today’s order on the basis that there are reasonable grounds to consider that the detention of the Grace 1 is required for the purposes of compliance with the European Union (EU) Regulation 36/2012 on sanctions on Syria,” Gibraltar’s government said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, the Associated Press reported that the vessel’s 28 crew members were being held on the ship for questioning and had not been detained under criminal procedures, citing an unnamed spokesperson for the Gibraltar government.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has said the seizure was prompted by a U.S. request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Friday that Madrid was planning to lodge a formal complaint against the UK and was studying the circumstances and looking at how the incident is affecting its sovereignty.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton — an ardent hawk behind the White House’s highly hostile Iran policy — has praised the measure.

SP/PA
 

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