British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, over the phone on Saturday. The two discussed the Grace I, the Iranian oil tanker seized by British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4th.
Hunt said in a tweet on Saturday, "Just spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Constructive call. I reassured him our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace One that UK would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in Gib(Gibraltar) courts."
In another tweet Hunt said, "Was told by FM Zarif that Iran wants to resolve issues and is not seeking to escalate."
Both Spain’s foreign minister and Iranian officials accused the US of ordering the British to seize the tanker. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Friday, "The decisions of Her Majesty’s government of Gibraltar were taken totally independently, based on breaches of existing law and not at all based on extraneous political considerations." Picardo claims Gibraltar decided to seize the ship because it was suspected of delivering oil to Syria, which would be a violation of US and EU sanctions.
Although no US officials admitted to ordering the seizure, John Bolton celebrated the news on twitter, "Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions. America & our allies will continue to prevent regimes in Tehran & Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade."
The British accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of attempting to seize a British ship in the Straits of Hormuz on Wednesday. Iranian officials denied the allegations, and there is still no evidence to prove the incident actually happened but this did not stop mainstream media outlets from reporting this as fact. CNN used two unnamed US officials as their source. The CNN article even said, "A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident, though CNN has not seen the footage."
On Thursday FM Zarif said of the claims, "They make such claims to create tension, yet these claims are worthless and they have made many such claims." No footage has been released to any media outlets to prove the IRGC approached a British ship.
Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He recently joined Antiwar.com as an assistant editor. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.