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Iran says tanker seized in Gibraltar may be released soon

Tensions have risen in the Gulf over the tanker seizures [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 August, 2019

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An Iranian official has claimed the UK and Iran are close to agreeing upon the released of an Iranian tanker detained in Gibraltar last month.

Iran said on Tuesday that the UK could soon free its oil tanker, seized in early July allegedly in contravention of European Union sanctions, after the two countries exchanged documents that would help secure the Grace 1's release.

"Britain is interested in releasing Iran's oil tanker Grace 1 ... following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon," Jalil Eslami, the deputy head of Iran's ports and Maritime Organisation, said according to Iran's state news agency.

The UK Navy detained the Iranian oil tanker in early July off the coast of Gibraltar.

The Grace 1 was suspected of transporting oil to Syria in contravention of EU sanctions, an allegation which Iran denies, calling the seizure "piracy".

The incident initiated an ongoing crisis in the Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, a vital world shipping route, with multiple tankers seized.

Just two week after the capture of the Grace 1, Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized a British tanker, the Stena Impero, accusing it of maritime violations.

The UK considers the seizure to have been an illegal retaliation.

A Gibraltar court will decide the fate of the Iranian tanker on Thursday, when an order for its detention lapses.

"I hope this problem will be resolved in the near future and that the ship can continue its movement with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Eslami said.

British warship HMS Kenton Tuesday set sail for the Gulf to join a US-led mission aimed at protecting merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.

The mission comes amid rising tensions in the region over the past few months.

A series of sabotage attacks on oil infrastructure and tankers and downed drones in the Gulf were followed by a buildup in US troop presence, among other stressors which have seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US and allies lock horns with Iran.

 

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