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Iran Says UK Might Soon Release Seized Iranian Oil Tanker

Iran and the UK have exchanged documents and Britain has shown interest in resolving the issue with the Iranian oil tanker it seized in early July, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Tuesday, quoting the deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO), Jalil Eslami.

Eslami told IRNA that he hoped the issue could be resolved soon and the vessel could be released and fly an Iranian flag.

Earlier reports in Iranian media suggested that the Iranian oil tanker—detained by Gibraltar because it had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Iranian ship Grace 1 was violating European Union sanctions against Syria—could be released as soon as on Tuesday evening.

A highly placed source in the government of Gibraltar—a British overseas territory—told Reuters that Iranian reports of imminent release of the tanker, as soon as today, were not correct.  

The UK will facilitate the release of the Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar if Iran gave guarantees that the crude loaded on that vessel wasn’t bound for Syria, the UK’s then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the middle of July.

Several high-profile incidents in recent weeks and months have increased the tension between Iran and the West in the Middle East and in the most important oil shipping corridor in the world, the Strait of Hormuz, which is in close proximity to Iranian coasts.

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In one of the most prominent incidents in the Gulf in the past month, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in what appeared to be a retaliatory move after Gibraltar seized the Iranian oil tanker.

According to Iran’s state news agency IRNA, Eslami said that the U.S. and the UK “have launched propaganda against Iran,” referring to “Iran’s seizing the UK oil tanker because of violating International Law of the Sea and US forming a coalition to escort ships in the Persian Gulf.”

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The U.S.—whose President Donald Trump said in June that countries that get their crude oil via the shipping routes in the Middle East should protect their own ships along the lanes—is trying to garner a broad international support for escorting oil tankers in the Gulf after the recent incidents. So far only the UK has said it would join the U.S. in protecting tankers after the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iran.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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