A seized oil tanker at the center of a standoff between Britain and Iran is free to set sail, despite eleventh-hour efforts by the United States to halt the move to release it.
The Supreme Court in the British territory of Gibraltar approved the release of the Grace 1, after authorities said they no longer wished to detain it. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister said he had accepted a pledge from Iran that, were the tanker to be released, its cargo would not be taken to its suspected original destination of Syria, which would have been in contravention of European Union sanctions against Riyadh.
British Royal Marines and Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies stormed the ship on July 4 under the belief that the vessel carried oil destined for Syria, which would have been in violation of European Union sanctions.
“We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria,” Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said at the time, adding that the United States had asked the UK to intercept the ship. Gibraltar is an British overseas territory on the edge of southern Spain.
Iran has criticized the seizure as “illegal” and condemned the operation as “piracy,” according to a report at the time from the semi-official Tasnim news agency. At an earlier hearing, Gibraltar attorney general Joseph Triay said the US Department of Justice had applied to have the ship seized. The status of Washington’s legal efforts was unclear yesterday.