In an attempt to ease tensions with Iran, British Foreign Secretary said the tanker held by Gibraltar would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not heading to Syria. Jeremy Hunt said he had a “constructive call” with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who he said assured him that Tehran “is not seeking to escalate” tensions between the countries.
Taking to Twitter, Hunt wrote, “I reassured him our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace One.”
US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.
Hunt said Britain “would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in Gib (Gibraltar) courts.
“Was told by FM Zarif that Iran wants to resolve issue and is not seeking to escalate.” Tehran had reacted angrily to the seizure, and Britain this week said Iranian military vessels had tried to “impede the passage” of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
Hunt said Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was doing an “excellent job co-ordinating issue and shares UK perspective on the way forward”.
Hunt also said he raised with Zarif the imprisonment of British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and Zarif “said he would continue to seek to find a solution".
Four Indian nationals are in detention in Gibraltar in connection with an ongoing investigation as Royal Gibraltar Police arrested two more Indian sailors on Friday.
The latest arrests, of the second mates aboard the vessel named Grace I, follow the arrest of the captain and chief officer of the ship on Thursday on suspicion of breaching the European Union (EU) sanctions against Syria.
“All four men are Indian nationals and they have been granted full legal assistance, telephone contact with their families and access to their consular authorities,” Royal Gibraltar Police said in a statement.
“The arrest of the two officers, who are now held in custody at the RGP headquarters in New Mole House assisting police with their inquiries, follows the detention yesterday [Thursday] of the vessel’s captain and chief officer,” the statement said.