15:39 GMT06 March 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Dominic Asquith , the British High Commissioner to New Delhi, said on Wednesday that it is up to the Gibraltar authorities to decide on the fate of the 25 Indian sailors, rather than the British government.

    The release of Indian sailors from the Grace 1 vessel seized by UK marines off Gibraltar earlier this month is not in the "UK's hands" and can only be done after "due judicial process by Gibraltar authorities," said Asquith, who added that there would be no swap arrangement with Iran over the Stena Impero vessel, which was captured on 19 July with 23 people on board as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz. 

    Asquith said that the action by Royal Marines against Indian ship captain was "legitimate" as the oil tanker was destined for EU-sanctioned Syria. The British diplomat added that he found it "intriguing" that the Indian captain of Grace 1 was unaware of EU sanctions.

    ​On July 30, the Indian captain of the Grace 1 said in a BBC interview that Royal Marines made his unarmed crew kneel on the deck at gunpoint.

    Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been on the rise over the past several months. The situation became especially heated when Iran seized UK-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 over what it described as the breach of international maritime regulations. The move came two weeks after Iran's own Grace 1 oil tanker had been seized by UK marines over an alleged breach of the European Union's sanctions against Syria. Iran has denied that Grace 1 transported oil to Syria.

    The Indian government has remained tight-lipped about the release of the Indian sailors, however a team from the Indian high commission in the UK travelled to Gibraltar and met the sailors on 24 July.

    It is expected that the issue will come up during discussions between the Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his British counterpart Dominic Raab when they meet on 2 August on the sidelines of East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.


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