Iran tanker release could help free British-flagged vessel, says Iranian ambassador

0

Iran’s ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad tells Sky News “one issue can help resolution of another issue”.

The release of a seized Iranian tanker could help secure the freedom of a British-flagged vessel detained by Tehran, Iran’s ambassador to the UK has told Sky News.

On 4 July, Royal Marines were involved in the seizure of Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar, suspecting the ship of taking oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Iran called it an act of “piracy”.

Days later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship and its 23 crew remain in Iranian custody.

Iranian ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad told Sky News: “Of course one issue can help resolution of another issue but these are two separate issues that need to be tackled separately.”

He also said: “We’re very keen to see the UK is doing all the measures necessary to release as soon as possible the Grace 1.”

On Monday he had been less open to compromise, tweeting that any exchange would be “impossible”, as the UK had “illegally detained” the Iranian ship and the British-flagged ship had been “detained for violating some key safety/security regulations”.

During his Sky News interview, Mr Baeidinejad stood by Iran’s initial explanation for the seizure of Stena Impero, saying: “That ship collided with a fishing boat in the area…the fishing boat was damaged and there have been injuries.”

He also said Stena Impero had “entered the Strait of Hormuz from the exit lane, which is against the law”.

“We have tension in the region because of the US policies – that ship should have been very careful not to violate any laws.”

Mr Baeidinejad denied Grace 1 was heading for Syria but repeatedly declined to identify the ship’s destination.

He told Sky News: “It’s very clear, we have announced it’s not going to a sanction entity…we’re not entitled to say what is the destination of the ship.”

His words come amid rising tensions between the UK and Iran. As well as the two tankers being seized, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, on patrol in the region, deterred Iranian patrol boats attempting to impede a British tanker sailing through the Strait of Hormuz this month.

The waterway is the only route into the wider ocean for more than a sixth of the world’s oil and a third of its liquefied natural gas.

The Royal Navy has been tasked with escorting all British-flagged vessels through the area.

Iran and the UK also remain in dispute over the continued imprisonment of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was jailed for five years in Tehran after being accused of spying in 2016, a charge she denies.

When asked if he was insisting she had been spying even though she was in the country with her baby, Mr Baeidinejad said: “Espionage is a very flexible language, it can involve many activities.

“When you’re engaged in illegal activities, it doesn’t matter if you have a baby or not…you should be accountable to law.

“The question is do we want to help her be released before or not? If that’s the intention there are some regulations that should be followed. We have a clemency procedure and that should be followed.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov appeared to back Iran’s explanation for its seizure of the Stena Impero, telling Sky’s Russia correspondent Diana Magnay: “In terms of what Iranians did to the British [flagged]tanker, we regard their explanation of some breach of the rules of navigation as being a credible one.”

But he “strongly urged” all sides to remain within the terms of the JCPOA – the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US. Last year, US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement but European signatories have been trying to salvage it.

:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify,Spreaker

Mr Ryabkov said: “It would be most unfortunate if some will start following a very destructive course which the Trump administration embarked upon and which ended with first complete withdrawal from the deal and, subsequently, very crude imposition of extra-territorial sanctions.”

He added: “We’re pretty sure that [Iran] are fully committed to the exclusively peaceful nature of their nuclear programme and they should be rewarded for this.”

Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply