London: Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and also one of the two Conservative leadership contenders, has said that Britain would facilitate the release of the Iranian oil tanker if given guarantees that the vessel “would not be going to Syria”.
Hunt made the remarks on Saturday on Twitter, saying he “just spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif. Constructive call. I reassured him our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace one and that UK would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in Gib (Gibraltar) courts”, Xinhua news agency reported
Zarif told him that “Iran wants to resolve issue and is not seeking to escalate”, Hunt added.
The police of Gibraltar, Britain’s overseas territory, on Thursday arrested the captain and chief officer of an Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 after intercepting it on July 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar in the south of the Iberian Peninsula on suspicion of transporting Iranian crude oil to Syria, in violation of the European Union’s sanctions against Syria.
Zarif tweeted on July 8, saying “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo”.
He called UK’s seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil “unlawful” and “sets a dangerous precedent and must end now”.
While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Britain of the “consequences”.
Tension rose as the British government said on Wednesday that a Royal Navy warship drove off Iranian patrol boats that were allegedly attempting to impede the progress of a British tanker sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Hunt told the media on Friday that Britain’s response to rising tensions with Iran have been “measured” and “careful”.