Daily Management Review

Iran Hints It May Swap Seized Tankers With The UK


Iran Hints It May Swap Seized Tankers With The UK
If the United Kingdom agrees to release an Iranian tanker that was seized by it earlier this month off the coast of Gibraltar, Iran would also let go of the British-flagged vessel it seized last week, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani apparently suggested.
"If Britain steps away from the wrong actions in Gibraltar, they will receive an appropriate response from Iran," Rouhani reportedly said during a weekly cabinet meeting.
It has been alleged that British security forces helped seize a supertanker carrying Iranian oil called The Grace-1. It was seized on July 4 off the British overseas territory on Spain's southern coast allegedly because it was carrying oil for Syria which violated sanctions of European Union. About two weeks later, the British-flagged Stena Impero was seized by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz, which is a strategic sea path for oil shipment. Iran alleged that the ship was involved in an accident with a fishing boat in addition to violating international law.
The two seizures have escalated tensions between the UK and Iran as both the countries have denied the allegations made by each other and both engaged in a war of words over the seizures.
According to reports in Iranian media, UK had sent a mediator top Iran to try and secure a release of the Stena Impero.
While no details of the visit by the British mediator was given by Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, the head of the Supreme Leader's office, an ironic reference to the involvement of Britain in Iranian affairs during colonial times was made by him.
"A country that at one time appointed ministers and lawyers in Iran has reached a point where they send a mediator and plead for their ship to be freed," Mohammadi Golpayegani said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news site.
The news of the UK sending a mediator was however denied by British diplomatic sources, according to reports. "We are not aware of any representatives being sent as mediators to Iran," a source was quoted as saying in a news report by Reuters news agency.
There is already tension prevailing the gulf region after re-imposition of sanctions on Iran by the United States which were the strictest since US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last year. The US has also convinced Saudi Arabia to allow the US to increase its military presence in the region. 
Iran was ready for "just" negotiations - but would not participate if the talks asked it to surrender, Rouhani said. Analysts guessed that he was referring to possible negotiations with the US.
"As long as I have the responsibility for the executive duties of the country, we are completely ready for just, legal and honest negotiations to solve the problems," Rouhani said, according to his official website. "But at the same time we are not ready to sit at the table of surrender under the name of negotiations."