Iran’s defence minister says Britain’s seizure of oil tanker was threatening act

Clay Curtis
July 11, 2019

Royal Marines seized the tanker on Thursday for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, a dramatic intervention that sparked Tehran's fury and could escalate its confrontation with the West. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency called the incident "an illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker".

Iran's deputy foreign minister said on Sunday he considered the seizure by Gibraltar to be an act of piracy, while a former leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard said the Islamic Republic should take a British tanker in response.

"This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery. certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated", Brigadier-General Hatami said.

Iran has continually denied the vessel was heading to its ally Syria.

There was no immediate reaction to the tanker's detention from Syria, which has suffered severe fuel shortages as a result of the civil war and Western sanctions that have crippled the country's oil industry, once the source of 20 per cent of government revenues. "The port that they have named in Syria essentially does not have the capacity for such a supertanker. Its destination was somewhere else".

Later on Monday, the government of Gibraltar said tests have shown the tanker was fully loaded with crude oil.

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He added that Iran was now following "the legal path through court" but hoped the issue could be resolved by diplomatic consultations.

Iran on Friday demanded that Britain immediately release the tanker, but Gibraltar's Supreme Court ruled that the vessel can be held for 14 more days.

In the tweet, Bildt wrote that "The legalities of the United Kingdom seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me".

The tanker's detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the US and Iran grow over the unraveling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from a year ago. And EU as a principle doesn't impose its sanctions on others.

Reports say the Iranian vessel was travelling in accordance with worldwide law before it was taken over.

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