Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif promised to “expedite” the legal affairs with regards to the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero which it seized last month amid a diplomatic row with London.
“We will expedite the legal process for the British tanker that is now in our custody after they basically committed sea crimes by taking our ship,” Zarif said while on a trip to Malaysia on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. His comments come one week after meeting with Erik Hanell, the chief of Swedish shipping firm Stena Bulk, which owns the seized vessel. Hanell asked Tehran to release the ship and its crew of 23.
Tensions over a series of ship seizures began in early July, when Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 was boarded by British commandos and Gibraltar police off the southern coast of Spain. Its crew was investigated for alleged attempts to transport oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. The ship, by that time renamed Adrian Darya 1, was eventually released despite the US issuing an arrest warrant for it.
The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Tehran and London. On July 19, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the Stena Impero as it was entering the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Tehran claimed the ship violated several maritime rules, including switching off its GPS and ignoring a distress call from a fishing boat it allegedly collided with. The tanker is currently docked at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
The conflict over the tankers unfolded amid increasing pressure on Iran from the US. During a G7 event over the weekend, US President Donald Trump floated the idea of meeting his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, if Tehran fulfills a long list of demands from Washington, like shutting down its ballistic missile program.
Zarif said that in order to hold talks with Iran, the US should lift the sanctions and “observe” the 2015 agreement on the Iranian nuclear program it unilaterally abandoned last year.
It won’t be possible for us to engage with the United States unless they stop imposing a war and engaging in economic terrorism against the Iranian people.
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