US says tanker spotted in Syria shows Iran deceitful

In this file photo taken on August 18, 2019 an Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
Updated 14 September 2019

US says tanker spotted in Syria shows Iran deceitful

  • US says has evidence Iranian ship transferred its oil to Syrian regime
  • An Iranian vessel was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar

WASHINGTON, LONDON: Gibraltar acted in good faith when it released the Adrian Darya 1 tanker and Iran broke assurances it had given not to sell the crude oil to Syria, the British territory’s maritime minister said on Friday.

British commandos on July 4 seized the supertanker, formerly named the Grace 1, on suspicion that it was en route to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Gibraltar released it on Aug. 15 after getting written Iranian assurances that it would not discharge its cargo of around 2 million barrels of oil in Syria.

“We released the vessel in good faith based on assurances given by a sovereign nation,” said Gilbert Licudi, minister with responsibility for port and maritime affairs.

“The information we have is that despite the assurances that were given to the Gibraltar government that the vessel would not unload in Syria it appears that is what has actually happened,” he told Reuters on a visit to London.

Iran’s envoy to London said on Wednesday — after being summoned by Britain’s Foreign Minister Dominic Raab — that the Adrian Darya 1’s cargo was sold at sea to a private company, denying Tehran had broken assurances it had given over the vessel, adding that the EU’s Syria sanctions did not apply to Tehran.

Licudi said he did not know “for a fact” whether the ship had discharged the cargo at sea.

“It does not necessarily have to be in port, it can be ship-to-ship transfers in different amounts of cargoes and then it is delivered,” he said.

The US State Department said on Thursday Washington had evidence that the tanker had transferred its oil to the Syrian regime.

The tanker’s last reported position off Syria’s coast was on Sept. 2 before its public tracking transponder went dark, Refinitiv data showed.

“I think the importance here to our friends around the world in the international community is to note that once again you have been lied to and misled by the Iranian regime,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Gibraltar refused a US request to seize the tanker in August, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by EU law. 

“There was certainly no pressure from the US or from anybody else or even the UK. This was a decision that had to be taken because of our international responsibilities and our international obligations.”

“The Iranian regime broke its word and appears intent on fueling the Assad regime’s brutality against the Syrian people, who continue to face widespread violence, death and destruction,” Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump’s administration has slapped punishing sanctions on Iran after walking away from a multinational accord on ending its nuclear program.

But Trump has recently said he is open to meeting Iran’s leadership after France proposed an initiative aimed at lowering tensions.

Iran has rejected the authority of Gibraltar authorities to seize the ship, calling it an act of piracy.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Sunday that the Adrian Darya had “reached its destination and the oil has been sold,” without providing further details.

The United States offered millions of dollars to the ship’s Indian captain in an unsuccessful bid to encourage him to divert it to a US-friendly port where the vessel could be seized.


WHO: Middle East at ‘critical threshold’ in coronavirus numbers

Updated 02 July 2020

WHO: Middle East at ‘critical threshold’ in coronavirus numbers

  • Over 80 percent of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

CAIRO: The World Health Organization warned Wednesday the Middle East was at a decisive moment in the fight against the coronavirus, with cases surging as countries ease lockdown measures.
“We are at a critical threshold in our region,” the WHO’s Middle East head, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, said in an online press conference.
According to figures published by the global health body on Wednesday, the 22 countries from Morocco to Pakistan had recorded 1,077,706 novel coronavirus cases and 24,973 deaths.
Mandhari said passing a million infections marked a “concerning milestone” and urged countries to strengthen their health care systems.
“The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the region on 29 January,” he said.
He attributed the rise in confirmed cases to increased testing, the easing in recent weeks of lockdown measures and weakened health infrastructure in conflict-hit countries.
Over 80 percent of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — according to the WHO.
Iran, which has been struggling to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak, on Monday recorded its highest single-day COVID death toll of 162.
It now has a recorded a total of 230,211 infections and 10,958 deaths.
Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.
The Islamic republic gradually lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.
In neighboring Iraq, authorities have refused to reimpose strict lockdown measures, even as hospitals across the country, battered by years of war, have been swamped in recent weeks.
While the virus had spread relatively slowly for months, on Wednesday the number of recorded cases surpassed 51,000 including more than 2,000 deaths.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with 100 million inhabitants, has officially reported 68,000 cases and around 3,000 deaths from the COVID-19 disease.
On Wednesday, authorities reopened the famed Giza pyramids after a three-month closure, a day after resuming international flights as part of efforts to restart the vital tourism industry.
Lebanon, battling an economic crisis and public unrest alongside the novel coronavirus, reopened the Beirut airport after months of closure.
The small eastern Mediterranean state has recorded some of the lowest infection and mortality rates in the Middle East: 1,800 cases and just 34 deaths.
In contrast, neighboring Israel saw a jump of about 15 percent in case numbers in the last week to over 25,500 on Wednesday, according to government figures.
The West Bank too was hit by a sharp spike in infections, with the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday announcing a five-day lockdown across the territory.
Total confirmed coronavirus infections in the territory more than doubled within a week to 2,636 following the easing of previous restrictions.
In Qatar, residents cautiously returned to beaches on Wednesday as the Gulf nation, with one of the world’s highest per-capita infection rates and tough penalties for failing to wear masks in public, continued to reopen.
WHO officials at the virtual meeting urged governments to prepare more intensive care beds and emergency wards.
Mandhari urged individuals to be “cautious and vigilant” as lockdowns and curfews were eased, and to follow protocols recommended by health authorities.
“Easing of lockdowns does not mean easing of the response or easing of social responsibilities,” he said, warning cases could rise as public spaces reopen “even in countries where the situation now seems to be stabilizing.”
He also called for global solidarity.
“We have to face this pandemic as one government and one community,” he said.

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