Despite pressure from the United States, the Iranian oil tanker "Grace-1" has left Gibraltar


Suspected of transporting oil to Syria in violation of an embargo, the ship had been immobilized for a month in the territory under British sovereignty.

The World with AFP Posted on August 15, 2019 at 16h07 – Updated 19 August 2019 at 15h07

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The "Grace-1" was arrested on 4 July by the Gibraltar police and the British Special Forces.
The "Grace-1" was arrested on 4 July by the Gibraltar police and the British Special Forces. MARCOS MORENO / AP

The event had precipitated the United Kingdom into the crisis between Washington and Tehran. The immobilization of the Grace-1, Iranian oil tanker cruising off Gibraltar, by British authorities in early July, ended Thursday, August 15 despite pressure from the United States. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has indeed allowed the ship to leave the British territory despite the US request to prolong the detention of the ship, suspected of wanting to deliver its cargo to Syria, hit by a European embargo.

This decision followed Iran's written commitment that the ship's cargo was not destined for a Syrian port. "We deprived the Assad regime in Syria of more than $ 140 million worth of crude oil," welcomed the head of the government of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, in a statement.

Tehran however denied Friday to have given guarantees as to the destination of the ship. "The destination of the tanker was not Syria (…) and even if it was the case, this is nobody's business," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on the state television channel Irib.

"Attempted piracy"

Initially expected in the morning, the decision planned for weeks had to be postponed several hours after the surprise announcement by the public prosecutor of Gibraltar of a request from the United States to prolong the immobilization of the tanker, filed in the night .

"The US Department of Justice has requested the seizure of the Grace-1 by highlighting a number of reasons that are being examined ", said a spokesman for the Government of Gibraltar. The President of the Court, Judge Anthony Dudley, however, stated that he had not been seized in writing of a US request to prolong the detention of the tanker.

The "Piracy attempt" failed, welcomed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter and lashed out "Tromp's level of contempt for the law". The United States, he said, had tried to abuse the judicial system and steal Iranian property on the high seas. However, nothing prevents the United States from reformulating its request for mutual legal assistance. to block the ship before it leaves the territorial waters of Gibraltar, in the hours or days to come.

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Washington threatens visa ban crew

A request for mutual legal assistance usually involves asking a court such as Gibraltar to enforce a decision of a foreign court, in this case a US court. Meanwhile, the captain and the three officers of the Grace-1, who were on bail, were formally released, a spokesman for the Gibraltar government said.

The crew of the Iranian tanker is now threatened with a visa ban by Washington. "The United States says that Grace-1 was helping the body of the guardians of the Islamic Revolution by transporting oil from Iran to Syria."said the State Department in a statement. "Boat crew members helping the Revolutionary Guards by carrying oil from Iran may no longer be eligible for visas or entry into the United States".

The Grace-1 was arrested on 4 July by Gibraltar police and British special forces, causing a diplomatic crisis between Tehran and London. Tehran assures the tanker was sailing in international waters and accuses the United Kingdom of "Piracy", claiming from the beginning that the British let him go. On 19 July, Iran, for its part, stopped a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Stena-Impero suspected of "Non-compliance with the international maritime code".

Read also From Gibraltar to Ormuz, incidents at sea with Iran multiply

The oil tanker's immobilization and subsequent diplomatic tensions have clouded the efforts of European states, who are trying to save the nuclear deal with Iran, which the United States withdrew last year, imposing heavy sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

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