0417 GMT July 17, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described Britain’s “unlawful” seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil in the Strait of Gibraltar as an act of “piracy” and urged the European country to immediately release the tanker.
The Iranian foreign minister in a message posted on his Twitter account on Monday highlighted that Iran is not subject to any European oil embargo.
“Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo. Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality. UK's unlawful seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil on behalf of #B Team is piracy, pure and simple. It sets a dangerous precedent and must end now,” Zarif tweeted.
Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines, boarded and impounded the 330-meter supertanker Grace 1, capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, in the Strait of Gibraltar on Thursday.
Also on Monday, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami slammed the move and said Tehran will not tolerate such actions.
“The action runs counter to international regulations and is a kind of maritime piracy,” Hatami said, Press TV reported.
Referring to the Islamic Republic long record in combating piracy, he said: “Definitely this maritime piracy will not be tolerated by us and will not go without a response”.
Describing the act as "threatening", he added, "This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery ... certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated."
On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Britain’s ambassador to the country to express its strong protest at the move.
At the Foreign Ministry, Rob Macaire was told that the British Royal Marines’ move was tantamount to “maritime piracy”, and that the UK must immediately release the oil tanker.
It was also emphasized that Iran will employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.
Authorities in Gibraltar claimed that the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Iran has denied the accusations.
“Contrary to Britain’s announcement, the tanker was not bound for Syria, and the port mentioned is not capable of receiving such a tanker,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday.
Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, said the action was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.