Britain offers to RELEASE Iranian tanker if Tehran can prove its cargo is not bound for Syria
- Britain has said it could help secure the release of an arrested Iranian oil tanker
- Grace 1 was seized off Gibraltar after being accused of heading to Syria
- Jeremy Hunt has said it could be returned if Iran gives ‘sufficient guarantees’ that it is not heading towards Syria, in breach of EU sanctions
Britain could help secure the release of a supertanker seized off the coast of Gibraltar if Iran provides ‘sufficient guarantees’ that the cargo is not bound for Syria, the Foreign Secretary has said.
Jeremy Hunt told Sky News that he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif about the Grace 1 tanker, which was detained last week, in what he described as a ‘constructive call’.
‘I made it clear that we want to resolve the situation with the Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar. Our concern has always been the destination of the tanker and the fact that it was taking oil to Syria – not the origin of the oil,’ Mr Hunt told Sky.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the UK could help secure the release of seized Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 if Tehran can provide ‘sufficient guarantees’ that it was not bound for Syria. (Pictured) The ship on the night of its arrest as a helicopter hovers overhead near Gibraltar
The Foreign Secretary said he had a ‘constructive call’ with his counterpart in Iran
‘And I said that if we could receive sufficient guarantees that that tanker was not headed for Syria then we would be able to resolve the situation, following of course due process in the Gibraltar courts.’
He added: ‘Foreign minister Zarif reassured me that Iran too wanted to resolve the situation, and I have also spoken to the chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, and they are working very closely with us to try and resolve the situation.’
It comes as the captain, chief officer and two second officers of the Iranian supertanker were conditionally bailed without charge, according to the Royal Gibraltar Police.
The captain and his deputy were arrested on Thursday, while the other crew were arrested on Friday ‘as a consequence of the ongoing investigation into the suspected breach of EU sanctions on Syria’, the force said in a statement.
Tensions in the region have continued to rise after the Grace 1 Iranian tanker was seized off Gibraltar in an operation involving Royal Marines from 42 Commando on July 4.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured at a Conservative party hustings event in Wyboston, Bedfordshire as he continues to fight in the leadership contest) said that Iran also wanted to resolve the situation
Earlier this week a British Frigate trained its guns on five Iranian ships after they attempted to board British-flagged oil tanker British Heritage as it approached the Strait of Hormuz
A graphic showing the route of a British oil tanker called British Heritage which five Iranian boats attempted to seize near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday
The vessel was suspected of violating EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria – with laboratory testing confirming the cargo to be 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil.
A warning was issued by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of unspecified ‘repercussions’ in response of the seizure.
Days later, HMS Montrose was forced to act against three patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz as they attempted to impede the passage of BP-operated tanker British Heritage.
The Royal Navy frigate drove off the boats, which were thought to have been operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – an incident they have denied.
On Friday, plans to dispatch Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region to relieve HMS Montrose were brought forward by the Government, so that the Type 23 frigate can undergo planned maintenance and crew changes.
In London, ministers including the Foreign Secretary have urged Tehran to ‘de-escalate’ the situation in the Gulf.
The Royal Gibraltar Police said the investigation related to the arrests is ongoing and the Grace 1 remains in detention.