On Friday, the Iranian supertanker that was seized last month due to suspicion of shipping petroleum products to Syria in breach of EU sanctions was set free to set sail from British territory Gibraltar. It was after a day of confusion surrounding the vessel’s fate.
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo decided to lift the custody order. It was after Iran guaranteed in writing that the ship would not release its oil in Syria.
In a statement, Picardo said, “In light of the assurances we have received there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1.”
In addition, “This is in order to ensure compliance with the EU sanctions Regulation.”
However, on Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry refused to commitments that were made in exchange for the tanker’s release, adding that the ship was never headed to Syria.
In a news report, the foreign ministry spokesman said, “Iran has made no commitment for the release of the Grace 1 petroleum products tanker.”
He also added that “Syria was not its destination” and reiterated that it was nobody’s business even if it was Syria.
On Thursday, the United States made a last-minute legal offer to hold the tanker in detention. This has resulted to a delay at the court’s ruling and complicated the fate of the ship.
The Gibraltar government noted the US request, which the US made independently. The request would be also reviewed, and a separate court case could take place.
If the case went back to the Supreme Court before Grace 1 left Gibraltar’s waters, its detention could be prolonged.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, suspects the US of attempted piracy in trying to avoid the release of the tanker.
In a tweet, Zarif said, “The US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas.”
He also added, “This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin’s contempt for the law.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador in London stated the US “faced a miserable defeat”.
The ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, also tweeted, “All preparations are done for the tanker to sail into open waters, and the vessel will soon leave Gibraltar.”
The detention of the Grace I brought tensions between the two countries to a clash.
Two weeks after the Iranian ship was detained, Iran held the UK-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. It was because of the accusation of breaking “international maritime rules”.
The Stena Impero’s detention has nothing to do with the Iranian vessel as Tehran has insisted.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the Stena Impero petroleum products tanker said that the situation continued with the same ship. The company also awaited further developments from the UK and Iran.
At the moment, UK-Iran relations are particularly strained.
On Wednesday, the wife of well-known British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmadi indicated that Ahmadi has been in prison in Tehran, and then he was taken to Evin prison on unidentified charges.
In April 2016, charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was followed by Iranian authorities and got arrested at Tehran airport. She denied the charges of spying given at her.