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.”
Mr Baeidinejad denied Grace 1 was heading for Syria but he repeatedly declined to identify the ship’s destination.
He said: “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.”
Mr Baeidinejad also 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.”
His words come as tensions increase 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 vital as the only route to the open ocean for more than a sixth of the world’s oil and a third of its liquefied natural gas.
The Royal Navy has now been tasked with escorting all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.