14:02 GMT27 January 2021
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    The seizure of a Panamanian-flagged supertanker laden with Iranian oil by Royal Marines off the British territory of Gibraltar has resulted in intense condemnation from Tehran, which called the move "a form of piracy" and accused London of parroting Washington's "hostile policies."

    The tanker seized off Gibraltar on Thursday was not transporting crude oil to Syria, as earlier claimed by Britain, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has said.

    "Contrary to what the British authorities are claiming, the tanker was not headed for Syria," Araqchi said, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Sunday.

    According to the senior diplomat, the Syrian port mentioned by the UK as the tanker's destination would not be able to accommodate the vessel. Araqchi did not specify where the ship was headed. Earlier, it was reported that the crude oil was being shipped to the Banyas refinery in northwest Syria.

    Araqchi stressed that no one had given Britain the right to detain the tanker in international waters, saying that by doing so, the UK was engaging in "buccaneering." The official added that Tehran remains in contact with British authorities and is demanding the immediate release of the vessel, and would resort to legal mechanisms if diplomacy fails.

    Talks are also underway with Spanish authorities, Araqchi said. Earlier, Madrid said it would lodge a formal protest to London over the tanker's detention, citing the UK's alleged incursion into Spanish territorial waters. Spain does not recognise UK jurisdiction over the waters around Gibraltar.

    On 4 July, UK Royal Marines and Gibraltar authorities seized the Grace 1, a Panamanian-flagged supertanker with a 300,000-tonne carrying capacity reportedly owned by Dubai-based Russian Titan Shipping Lines. The vessel's 28-member crew is said to be made up predominantly of Indian, Pakistani and Ukrainian nationals, who remain aboard the ship. Gibraltar authorities have ordered the tanker to be detained for at least two weeks, citing European Union economic sanctions against Syria.

    Tehran has summoned the UK's ambassador to Iran over the incident, calling the seizure a "form of piracy," while London has dismissed the claims and praised the Gibraltar authorities' actions, describing the move as a 'clear message' that the UK would not tolerate the violation of sanctions against Syria.

    US National Security Adviser John Bolton also praised the tanker's detention.

    Spanish authorities have said that the UK was tipped off about the tanker by the US. Moscow has condemned the detention, saying it "contradicts" the UK and other EU states' commitments to saving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.


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