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.
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.
TEHRAN – Iran said Saturday that an attack on one of the country's oil tankers won't go unpunished, the official IRNA news agency reported. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said a day after two missiles struck the Iranian tanker Sabiti as it traveled through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia that "vicious behavior in international waterways will not go without a response." Shamkhani said an Iranian committee had gleaned some information on the attack from video images from the Sabiti. Also on Saturday, Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said Iran is investigating the case while "avoiding hastiness." Nobody has claimed responsibility, and the Iranian government hasn't accused anyone of carrying out the assault.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – An Iranian-owned oil tanker was struck by two missiles off the Saudi port of Jiddah on Friday, Iranian state television reported, quoting the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) which owns the vessel. The tanker was set ablaze and suffered heavy damage and was leaking crude about 60 miles (96 km) from Jiddah, according to Iranian media. The alleged attack is the latest incident involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf region, and is likely to ratchet up tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which operates in the region, said it was aware of media reports about the tanker, but did not have any further information at this time. There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.
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.