Britain’s naval forces seized the Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4 under the pretext that the vessel might be carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on Damascus.
Iran says the UK’s reason for confiscation is not valid because Tehran is not a member of the EU and therefore its sanctions do not apply to the country. Moreover, the tanker was never headed to Syria, according to Iranian officials.
The tanker, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday after being released.
Raisi, however, said the release is not enough and Iran has to be compensated by those behind the seizure which Iranian officials have described as “state piracy”.
“The amount of time that it was seized will not be compensated just by it being freed,” the judiciary chief was quoted as saying Monday. “Damages must be paid so that it becomes a lesson for all those who act contrary to international regulations,” he added.
Reports said the vessel was heading to Greece after the release which Washington called unfortunate and warned Mediterranean ports against receiving it.
Iran has warned the US against trying to seize the vessel again. Since Gibraltar released the tanker on Thursday, Washington had launched a flurry of efforts to keep the tanker from leaving.
US threat looms as Iran tanker sets to leave GibraltarGibraltar says Iran-operated “Grace 1” supertanker has been allowed to leave Friday but a last-minute legal bid by the US to seize the vessel could still end up back in court.
The US Justice Department even issued a warrant on Friday to seize the tanker, claiming that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which the US has designated a terrorist organization.
The Gibraltar government ignored the warrant, noting that the IRGC is not blacklisted in Gibraltar, the UK or in most of the EU generally.
“It’s unfortunate that that happened,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Channel about the ship’s release.
The US State Department said Washington had conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government, as well as to all ports in the Mediterranean about facilitating the tanker.
Iran’s Navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday his force is ready to send a flotilla to escort the tanker.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also warned of “heavy consequences” if the United States renewed its seizure request.
“Such an action, and even the talk of it would endanger shipping safety in open seas,” he said.
“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi added.
Iran warns US against trying to seize oil supertankerThe Islamic Republic says it has warned the United States against any attempt at seizing an Iran-headed supertanker that had been detained by the UK and Gibraltar.
The Swiss embassy in Tehran represents US interests in the Islamic Republic in the absence of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Tensions have escalated since US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year. Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero under unilateral sanctions which it imposed on Tehran.
The tanker’s seizure is seen in line with Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign to bend Iran. When the ship was originally seized, Spanish and even Gibraltar officials admitted that it had come on the US request.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday because of US sanctions, Iran could not disclose where the oil would go.
Iranian MP Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh called on Britain to help the tanker reach its destination.
Iran still holds in its custody a British-flagged tanker which the IRGC impounded on July 19 for “violating international maritime law” in the Persian Gulf.
“The crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” said Falahatpisheh who is the head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee.
“Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis,” he said.