Britain expressed willingness to return a seized Iranian oil tanker.
By World Israel News Staff and Associated Press
“The U.K. government must immediately adopt required measures to end the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,” Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told his counterpart, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Saturday, according to PressTV.
Hunt expressed willingness to meet Iran’s demands, saying the U.K. would facilitate the release of the Grace 1 Supertanker seized by Britain’s Royal Marines if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel would not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Jeremy Hunt made the comments on Twitter late Saturday after what he described as a “constructive call” with Iran’s Zarif. He said he reassured Zarif “our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil.” Hunt says Zarif told him Iran is not seeking to escalate.
The supertanker was seized earlier this month off Gibraltar at the request of U.S. authorities. It was believed to be delivering oil to Syria, an area off-limits due to E.U. sanctions. The E.U., among others, has imposed sanctions on Assad’s government over its continued crackdown against civilians.
Iran accused London of playing a “dangerous game” and threatened retribution.
In apparent retaliation, Iranian paramilitary forces tried last week to impede the passage of a British commercial vessel accompanied by a British navy frigate, the HMS Montrose, near the Persian Gulf. The Montrose deterred the attempt, eventually training its guns on the smaller Iranian boats, which retreated.
British media reported a second warship, the destroyer HMS Duncan, was being sent to the Persian Gulf to operate alongside the Royal Navy’s Montrose and American forces, and would be there in a few days. The British Ministry of Defense refused to comment.
Fox News reports that during Friday prayers, Cleric Kazem Sedghi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told worshipers in a sermon broadcast live on state TV that “Iran’s strong establishment will soon slap Britain in the face for daring to seize the Iranian oil tanker.”