London offers Iranian oil tanker release for Syria guarantees



LONDON, Christoph Meyer (dpa)- British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Saturday told his Iranian counterpart that London would help release an Iranian oil tanker impounded in Gibraltar if it could prove the cargo wasn't going to Syria, in a first sign of ebbing tensions over the incident.
Hunt wrote on Twitter that he had spoken on the phone with Mohammad Javad Zarif, who told him that he wants to resolve the issue and is not seeking to escalate the situation.



The Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed on its website that the two men had spoken over the telephone. "We hope that the legal investigations in Gibraltar will soon lead to the release of the Iranian tanker," Tehran's top diplomat was quoted as saying.
Officials in Gibraltar and the British Royal Navy had seized the Grace 1 supertanker last week near Gibraltar on suspicion of transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The captain and three others were arrested and later released on bail.
Iran has protested the British authorities' actions, summoning their ambassador several times and calling for the ship to be released immediately. The top court in Gibraltar has ruled that the ship cannot be allowed to leave until at least July 21 at the earliest.
The incident became more inflamed on Wednesday after Britain's Defence Ministry said three Iranian ships had tried to "impede" a British oil tanker as it travelled through the Strait of Hormuz last week. Tehran denies that it was involved in the incident.
According to Tehran, Hunt and Zarif also spoke about a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran since 2016.
Zarif reasserted that the sentencing of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is legally sound. "Iran therefore expects Britain to also respect Iranian law and the independence of the courts," added Zarif.
There had been rumours in recent days that Iran could release Zaghari-Ratcliffe in exchange for the release of the tanker.
She was detained for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the regime by running a journalism training programme while visiting Iran and sentenced to five years in prison for espionage and sedition.
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Sunday, July 14th 2019
Christoph Meyer (dpa)
           


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