DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Britain will facilitate the release of a seized Iranian tanker Grace 1 if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel will not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, Britain's top diplomat said late Saturday. The comments by Jeremy Hunt could help de-escalate tensions that have spiked in recent days. In apparent retaliation for the seized tanker, Iranian paramilitary vessels tried to impede the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, only turning away after receiving "verbal warnings" from a British Royal Navy vessel accompanying the ship, the British government said. Hunt said he held a "constructive call" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and reassured him "our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil." Hunt wrote that Zarif told him Iran is not seeking to escalate the situation.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – An Iranian oil tanker blacklisted and pursued by the U.S. turned off its tracking beacon off the coast of Syria, leading to renewed speculation Tuesday that its oil will end up there, despite earlier assurances it wouldn't. The disappearance of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, follows a pattern of Iranian oil tankers turning off their Automatic Identification System to try and mask where they deliver their cargo amid U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's energy industry. Its disappearance comes after the British territory of Gibraltar seized the tanker and ultimately released it weeks later when officials there said they received assurances its oil wouldn't go to Syria, underscoring the challenges authorities face as a U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran continues. "The fact that Adrian Darya 1, as it is now renamed, is currently skirting the Syrian coast with its AIS offline, awaiting what the U.S. intelligence services expect to be an imminent ship-to-ship transfer, which will ultimately see its cargo end up in Syria, is politically embarrassing for almost everyone except Iran," wrote Richard Meade, the managing editor of Lloyd's List. Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers and the imposition of heavy economic sanctions on Iran have blocked it from selling its crude oil abroad, a crucial source of government funding for the Islamic Republic.
DUBAI – An Iranian government spokesman said on Monday that all legal steps had been completed for the release of the detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero but that he did not know when the vessel would be released, Iranian media reported. The July 19 seizure of the ship, two weeks after the U.K. detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, cranked up tensions in the region in the wake of attacks on other merchant vessels that Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran denied responsibility for those attacks, which took place along a vital international oil shipping route. "The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release," said government spokesman Ali Rabiei, according to semi-official news agency ILNA. The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Rabiei as saying: "The legal work for the oil tanker is over … and the oil tanker can move, and the decisions indicate the end of the detention."
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker two days ago, leading the U.S. to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region, an American defense official said Tuesday. Iran offered no immediate comment on what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late Saturday night, though an Emirati official acknowledged the vessel sent out no distress call. Oil tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. The concern about the Riah comes as Iran continues its own high-pressure campaign over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago. Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
Iran officials are pointing the finger at the U.S. and its allies for creating a'matchbox' in the Persian Gulf. Amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West a year after President Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, an Iranian supertanker the U.S. has suspected to be tied to a sanctioned organization has lifted its anchor and started moving away from Gibraltar, marine traffic monitoring data showed late Sunday. The trail left by GPS data on Marinetraffic.com, a vessel-tracking service, showed the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously known as Grace 1, moving shortly before midnight. The tanker slowly moved southeast toward a narrow stretch of international waters separating Morocco and the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The vessel hauling $130 million worth of light crude oil had been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria.