- Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker was detained earlier this month on suspicion of carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
- Iran said that the tanker was never destined for Syria and threatened to detain a British oil tanker.
- On July 9, the UK raised British cargo ships threat levels in Iranian waters in the Gulf to "critical" level--the highest level.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said an Iranian oil tanker being held by the British Royal Navy in the Straits of Gibraltar could be released if the United Kingdom will be guaranteed by Iran that the oil tanker would not go to Syria to deliver its cargo. The minister added that he had a “constructive” telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who informed him of Tehran’s desire to resolve the issue, and not to escalate the situation.
“He reassured us that our concern was about the destination of the oil, not the country where it came from and that the UK would facilitate the release of the Iranian carrier if we received assurances that it would not go to Syria,” Hunt wrote on his Twitter account. Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker was detained earlier this month on suspicion of carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
Iran considered the seizure of the oil tanker as “piracey.” The United Kingdom accused Iranian ships of trying to intercept a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. A team of 30 British Royal Navy troops had been sent from the United Kingdom to Gibraltar to assist in the detention of the large tanker and its cargo, as requested by Gibraltar’s government.
Authorities said there was a reason to believe that Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker was transporting crude oil to the Banias refinery along the Syrian coast. This is a violation of EU sanctions by Syria. Iran said that the tanker was never destined for Syria and threatened to detain a British oil tanker. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the detention of Grace 1 as a “form of piracy” and called for its immediate release and to allow it to continue its journey.
“This move indicates that the United Kingdom is following the hostile policies of the United States, which is unacceptable to the people and to the government in Iran,” Moussaoui said. Iran summoned Britain’s ambassador to Tehran, Robert Macaire, to protest what it called the “illegal detention.” Iran has since continued its demands for the release of the tanker. Tehran also issued warnings to London last week by an Iranian official in an interview with the Iran Islamic Republic News Agency not to be involved in “this dangerous game.”
On July 9, the UK raised British cargo ships threat levels in Iranian waters in the Gulf to “critical” level–the highest level. A day later, on July 10, Iranian boats tried to intercept a British tanker near the Gulf before being forced by a Royal Navy frigate to leave, the British Ministry of Defense said. The boats were believed to belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and approached the British tanker and tried to arrest it as it moved out of the Gulf and headed for the Strait of Hormuz.
The Montruz frigate, which accompanied the tanker, reportedly ordered the Iranians to move away. The Iranians responded to the warning and no shots were fired. Iran has denied any attempt to intercept the British carrier, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif was quoted saying that what the United Kingdom says are “allegations” aimed at “provoking tension.”