Published On: Thu, Aug 15th, 2019

Donald Trump makes ‘last minute’ intervention in Gibraltar – US to seize Iran tanker? | World | News

The Grace 1 vessel was captured on July 4 in a Royal Navy operation off the coast of the British overseas territory and had been set for release later today. The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reports “the US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar, just hours before the Gibraltar Government was poised to release it”. In court Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said had it not been for US intervention “the ship would have sailed”.

It was not immediately clear to what the US Justice Department’s application related to.

The Chronicle also reports the captain and three officers of the Grace 1 have been released.

The 15,000-tonne tanker was captured after it was suspected of violating sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, which Tehran has denied.

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court had granted The Rock the power to detain the vessel for 30 days – which will expire on Saturday.

Earlier sources close to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, said the stand-off is set to come to an end, but Gibraltar hold the power amid the rising conflict.

A source close to Mr Picardo told The Sun: “There is no reason to keep Grace 1 in Gibraltar a moment longer if we no longer believe it is in breach of sanctions against the Syrian regime.

“That is now the case, so you can expect to see her on her way.”

The Gibraltar Government said it is seeking to “de-escalate” the situation over the Grace 1.

Jalil Eslami, an official at Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, was quoted in the Fars news agency – which is closely tied to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards – that a resolution was close.

Mr Eslami said: “Official and unofficial documents have been exchanged to resolve the matter”.

He added: “We hope the problem will be dealt with in the very near future.”

Britain considers the situation a matter for Gibraltar.

READ MORE: Iran-US tension rocket as Tehran issues Trump terrifying warning 

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “The investigations being conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the Government of Gibraltar.

“As this is an ongoing investigation we are unable to comment further.”

On July 15, two weeks after the capture of Grace 1, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz.

On Monday Britain increased its military presence in the Gulf after HMS Kent set sail towards the region.

The Vessel will join a US-led mission protecting commercial shipping vessels in the Strait.

Andy Brown, the ship’s commanding officer stated the mission is primarily aimed to reduce conflict in the region.

Mr Brown said: “Our focus in the Gulf remains firmly one of de-escalating the current tensions.

“But we are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping, which this deployment on operations aims to do.’’

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