British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt sought to ease tensions with Iran on Saturday, saying a tanker held by Gibraltar would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not heading to Syria.
He said he had a “constructive call” with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who he said assured him that Tehran “is not seeking to escalate” tensions between the countries.
“I reassured him our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace One,” a tanker seized off the coast of the tiny British territory of Gibraltar on July 4, Hunt tweeted.
An Iranian statement confirmed the conversation and said Hunt underlined Iran’s “right to export oil”. It added that Tehran hoped that an investigation in Gibraltar into the seized ship “would lead quickly to the release of the Iranian tanker”.
US officials believe the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate EU and US sanctions.
Hunt said Britain “would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in Gib (Gibraltar) courts.
“Was told by FM Zarif that Iran wants to resolve issue and is not seeking to escalate.”
Iran, in its statement relayed by state media, said Zarif had told Hunt that his country would continue to export its oil “in all circumstances” and that the Grace One’s destination was a “legal” one, in “the eastern Mediterranean”. He did not specify where.
Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Driansaid said, “The situation is serious. The rise of tensions could lead to accidents.”