UK says Iran tanker will be freed af­ter guarantees on des­ti­na­tion

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt sought to ease ten­sions with Iran on Satur­day, say­ing a tanker held by Gi­bral­tar would be re­leased if Tehran guar­an­teed it was not head­ing to Syria.

He said he had a “con­struc­tive call” with his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, who he said as­sured him that Tehran “is not seek­ing to es­ca­late” ten­sions be­tween the coun­tries.

“I re­as­sured him our con­cern was des­ti­na­tion not ori­gin of the oil on Grace One,” a tanker seized off the coast of the tiny Bri­tish ter­ri­tory of Gi­bral­tar on July 4, Hunt tweeted.

An Ira­nian state­ment con­firmed the con­ver­sa­tion and said Hunt un­der­lined Iran’s “right to ex­port oil.” It added that Tehran hoped that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Gi­bral­tar into the seized ship “would lead quickly to the re­lease of the Ira­nian tanker.”

US of­fi­cials be­lieve the tanker was des­tined for Syria to de­liver oil, in vi­o­la­tion of sep­a­rate EU and US sanc­tions.

Hunt said Bri­tain “would fa­cil­i­tate re­lease if we re­ceived guarantees that it would not be go­ing to Syria, fol­low­ing due process in Gib (Gi­bral­tar) courts. “Was told by FM Zarif that Iran wants to re­solve is­sue and is not seek­ing to es­ca­late.”

Tehran had re­acted an­grily to the seizure, and Bri­tain this week said Ira­nian mil­i­tary ves­sels had tried to “im­pede the pas­sage” of a Bri­tish oil tanker in the Strait of Hor­muz.

Iran, in its state­ment re­layed by state me­dia, said Zarif had told Hunt that his coun­try would con­tinue to ex­port its oil “in all cir­cum­stances” and that the Grace One’s des­ti­na­tion was a “le­gal” one, in “the eastern Mediter­ranean.” He did not spec­ify where.

Iran has re­peat­edly said it deems US and EU sanc­tions against it as “il­le­gal.”

Hunt said Gi­bral­tar’s Chief Min­is­ter Fabian Pi­cardo was do­ing an “ex­cel­lent job co­or­di­nat­ing is­sue and shares UK per­spec­tive on the way for­ward.” wang­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

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