Authorities in Gibraltar have released the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, after receiving assurances that its cargo is not destined for Syria. The US had formally requested them to detain the vessel for a further period.
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo agreed to lift the detention on the ship, however, after Tehran gave written assurances that its cargo – 2.1 million barrels of oil – would not be unloaded in Syria.
“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 order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation,” he said.
The United States requested the government of Gibraltar not to release the tanker.
“The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations, which are now being considered,” the Gibraltar government said in a statement, adding that the issue would be reviewed in the courts later on Thursday afternoon.
Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, called Washington’s move “its desperate, last-minute efforts, intended to prevent the release of the [Grace 1] oil tanker from detention” that ended with “humiliation.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also weighed in on Twitter, calling the move an attempt at “piracy.”
“The US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas,” Zarif said. “This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin’s contempt for the law.”
The Grace 1 was seized by the UK outside of Gibraltar in early July, prompting Tehran, two weeks later, to seize a British-flagged vessel in the Persian Gulf. Both sides have denied there were plans to exchange the ships.