Iran breakthrough: British-flagged tanker ‘to be released within hours’

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards detained the Stena Impero off the coast of the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations on July 19, just two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. The Iranian vessel was released in August. Tehran now looks set to follow suit, and release the Stena Impero later today.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT quoted Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell as saying: “We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours.

“So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken.

“We hope to be able to head out within a few hours, but we don’t want to anticipate events.

“We want to see that the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters.”

Swedish radio reported that he was currently travelling to Iran, according to Stena Bulk spokespersons.

He said: “The vessel is still being held and the negotiations are ongoing, and until we have official confirmation and the vessel is lifting up its anchor and sailing out of Iranian waters we can’t confirm anything else.”

23 crew members were aboard the vessel when it was captured and Iran released only seven of the seafarers on September 4.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the time that they had been in daily contact with Iran at a high political level since the vessel was seized.

Britain called on Iran to release the ship and its remaining crew immediately.

A spokesperson for the British government said: “Iran’s illegal seizure of a ship inside an internationally recognised shipping lane is unacceptable and undermines international law.”

The Iranian tanker was released last month, after it was seized by British Royal Marines on suspicion it was taking 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria – in break of an EU arms embargo.

Adrian Darya 1 was released following written guarantees the oil would not be sold to Syria but Tehran defied the agreement.

The British Foreign Office said it was clear the ship’s cargo had been transferred to the Assad regime in an “unacceptable violation” of international norms.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was furious at the move, and immediately demanded to see the Syrian ambassador.

He said: “Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1.

“This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.

“This includes illegally supplying weapons to Houthi insurgents in Yemen, support for Hezbollah terrorists and most recently its attempts to hijack commercial ships passing through the Gulf.

“We want Iran to come in from the cold but the only way to do that is to keep its word and comply with the rules based international system.”

Iran’s foreign ministry said that a tanker seized by British Marines on July 9 and released in August had reached its final destination “on the Mediterranean coast” and sold its oil – without identifying the country.

But the tanker had been spotted off the coast of Syria.

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