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.