Iran threatens to seize British oil tanker after Marines storm ship off Gibraltar coast | World | News


He added: “Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies.”

Tehran had summoned the British ambassador to voice “its very strong objection to the illegal and unacceptable seizure” of its ship.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Iranian oil tanker was carrying crude oil from Iran, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Gibraltar said it had reasonable grounds to believe the Grace 1 was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria.

The Grace 1 was impounded off the coast of Gibraltar after sailing around Africa – the longer route from the Middle East to the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea

The EU has had sanctions in place for nearly a decade that restrict oil sales to Syria.

Europe does not have broad sanctions in place against Iran, but the US does, forcing Tehran into mainstream markets to look for unconventional outlets to sell oil.

The sanctions imposed by the bloc are against 277 Syrian officials and restrict the Syrian economy in response to violent repression from civilians.

The EU has frozen the assets of more than 70 countries and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil.

But Spain also reignited its war of words with Britain over sovereignty in Gibraltar following the seizure of the tanker.

Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has claimed Gibraltar detained the supertanker Grace 1 after a request by the US to Britain.

Mr Borrell, who is set to take over as the EU’s foreign policy chief, said the Spanish Government had been kept informed about the seizure.

But he added they would look at whether it violated its territorial water claims.

Spain does not recognise Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, which dates all the way back to a 1713 treaty.

Mr Borrell said, according to the Europa Press news agency: “We’re looking at which way this affects our sovereignty, in as far as it took place in waters whose sovereignty we understand to belong to Spain.

Following the seizure of the tanker, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.

“With my consent, our Port and Law Enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”

Mr Picardo added: “In the early hours of this morning, Gibraltar Port and Law Enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachment of Royal Marines, boarded a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria.

“We have detained the vessel and its cargo.

“This action arose from information giving the Gibraltar Government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, the Grace 1, was acting in breach of European Union sanctions against Syria.

“In fact, we have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria.

“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.”

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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