Iran won’t tolerate British piracy: Hatami

July 8, 2019 - 19:51

TEHRAN - Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday that Britain’ act in seizing Iranian oil tanker was an act of piracy which will not be tolerated.

“On these days, we have witnessed a provocative act by the British government against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s oil tanker in Gibraltar. This action is against international regulation and the Europeans commitments under the JCPOA and is also a kind of piracy,” Hatami said.

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 for three times in protest. Tehran has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

On Sunday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi denied reports that the supertanker was carrying oil to Syria.

“Contrary to Britain’s announcement, the tanker was not bound for Syria, and the port mentioned is not capable of receiving such a tanker,” Araqchi told reporters at a news conference in Tehran.

The seized tanker is a 2 million barrel capacity very large crude carrier (VLCC), Araqchi said, adding it could not pass through the Suez Canal and that was why it had to go the extra mile through Gibraltar.

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.


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