Detained crew of supertanker released on bail

July 13, 2019

TEHRAN - The crew member of supertanker who were arrested off the coast of Gibraltar have been conditionally bailed without charge, Sky News reported on Saturday.

 The ship was seized on July 4 in an operation involving British Royal Marines. It was captured under the allegation that it was carrying crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Royal Gibraltar Police arrested the captain and his deputy on Thursday, while two second officers of the Grace 1 tanker were held on Friday.

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

Iran has condemned the seizure as “maritime piracy,” vowing to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel.

Iran has demanded the immediate release of the oil tanker, warning Britain: "This is a dangerous game and has consequences."

In an interview published on Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi rejected claims the supertanker was on route to Syria, saying that no Syrian port could receive a vessel of such capacity.

Mousavi added the evidence presented by the British had shown that the allegations were legally insignificant.

The spokesperson warned London from entering "a dangerous game under the influence of the Americans with no end in sight.”

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also slammed the seizure as "pure piracy" done on behalf of the "B-team", a term used by the minister to describe a quadruple of leaders widely believed to be influential in shaping Trump's campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran.

Zarif further said that London's allegations about the tanker breaching EU bans on Syria were irrelevant since “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo”.

“Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality," he tweeted, warning that the measure would set “a dangerous precedent and must end now.”

British officials, including British Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, have claimed that they do not want tensions with Iran to "escalate".

However, marking a further escalation with Iran, Britain alleged on Thursday that Iranian speedboats had sought to block the passage of one of its tankers in the Persian Gulf, but backed off after warnings were issued by a British military vessel.

Iranian authorities dismissed the allegations later on Thursday, with the IRGC issuing a statement rejecting any encounter with foreign ships “in the past 24 hours”.

Following the alleged confrontation, the British government announced on Friday the deployment of a second British warship to the Persian Gulf in order to ensure "freedom of navigation" in the vital international shipping route.

The newly deployed ship, HMS Duncan, will operate alongside HMS Montrose for a short period before HMS Montrose docks in Bahrain for maintenance.

The deployment had been planned before tensions escalated with Iran, according to British sources.

Speaking on Friday, Mousavi rejected the presence of any foreign forces in the Persian Gulf, stressing that the region's security has to be ensured by the cooperation of neighboring states.

"Any presence of foreign forces, which come from tens of thousands of kilometers away and on the false pretext of ensuring regional stability, is unconstructive and should alarm everyone," he said.

PA/PA

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