In an apparent effort to end a monthslong standoff with the UK, Iran on Monday freed a British-flagged tanker which it had sezied in July on alleged maritime violations. The decision sends a message that Iran wants to ease tension with the UK ahead of the upcoming UN summit in USA as Tehran is set to face intense pressure from Western powers for allegedly backing forces which launched the recent drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.
“The legal process has finished and based on that the conditions for letting the oil tanker go free have been fulfilled and the oil tanker can move,” Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, said Monday, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Allahmorad Afifipour, the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran in Hormozgan Province, was quoted as saying by Wall Street Journal that the ship would soon leave the port of Bandar Abbas for international waters.
A spokesman for the Swedish owners of the Stena Impero said the Iranian authorities were yet to notify the company that the tanker was free to leave. The “vessel is still being held,” he said.
Stena Impero was seized by Iranian forces amid allegations that it violated international maritime rules in the region. The tanker was seized by Iranian forces just two weeks after Tehran threatened of retaliatory action against the UK for impounding an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar in July.
Talking to Wall Street Journal, a British Foreign Office official said it was monitoring the situation closely. “We continue to call on Iran to immediately release the Stena Impero and her remaining crew, who continue to be illegally detained,” the foreign office said in a statement.