Authorities in Gibraltar mentioned Thursday they intercepted an Iranian supertanker believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a cargo of Tehran’s crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.
A senior Spanish official stated the operation was requested by the USA. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency described the incident as “an illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.”
Gibraltar law enforcement agencies, assisted by Britain’s Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 early Thursday, authorities on the British overseas territory on the tip of Spain said in an announcement.
It added that the ship was believed to be headed to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, a government-owned facility under the management of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and subject to the EU’s Syrian Sanctions Regime.
The European Union and others have imposed sanctions on Assad’s authorities over its continued crackdown against civilians. They currently target 270 people and 70 entities.
Spain’s caretaker foreign minister Josep Borrell mentioned the tanker was stopped by British authorities after a request from the US.
Iran later summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to reply questions about the operation. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet that Rob Macaire was summoned over the “unlawful interception” of the ship.