Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Mike Pompeo claims Iranian tanker 'Grace 1' is delivering oil to Syria

US Secretary of State's claim was angrily disputed by Tanker Tracker website, which said its research was misused

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that the Iranian tanker at the centre of a dispute between Tehran and the West is transferring oil near Syria, breaking Tehran's pledges not to do so.

The Grace 1, which was renamed the Adrian Darya-1, was seized by British commandos off the coast of Gibraltar amid suspicions it was breaking EU sanctions by taking Iranian oil to Syria.

After weeks of diplomacy and international legal wrangling, the Gibraltar authorities lifted the seizure order.

The world watched to see when the ship would leave, where it would go and who would buy its crude. It now sits off the coast of Syria.

Satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. appears to show the Iranian oil tanker 'Grace 1' off the coast of Tartus, Syria. AP 
Satellite image from Planet Labs appears to show the Iranian oil tanker 'Grace 1' off the coast of Tartus, Syria. AP

"Despite Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s promise to the UK that the #AdrianDarya1 would not deliver oil to Syria, it is now transferring oil off the Syrian coast," Mr Pompeo said on Twitter.

"Will the world hold Iran accountable if this oil is delivered to Syria?"

The vessel was photographed near the coastal Syrian city of Tartus this month, where Russia has a port.

But shipping monitoring service Tanker Trackers said on Tuesday that the ship was off the coast of Syria's Baniyas oil refinery, in "formation with a smaller Iranian-flagged Handymax tanker" named Jasmine.

Despite Mr Pompeo's claim, Tanker Trackers said "this is not a confirmation of any oil transfer just yet".

It then clarified its post of the satellite image and responded directly to the US official's claim.

"That is not what we said. We said the oil transfer is still unconfirmed," Tanker Trackers said in a tweet.

"For all we know, the two crews could be enjoying coffee and playing cards together.

"One requires two dots in order to draw a line. We have to confirm the oil transfer. This is brand misrepresentation."

Tanker Tankers declined to provide any additional comment to The National.

After Mr Pompeo's tweet, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed his weekly Cabinet meeting.

There Mr Rouhani said that Iran supports a plan by European countries to bolster a nuclear deal that Tehran reached with the West in 2015 and from which the US withdrew last year.

He said the plan included preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, securing its support for regional peace, lifting US sanctions and the immediate resumption of Iranian oil exports.

"We agree with the general framework by the Europeans," Mr Rouhani said.

France, Britain and Germany had urged Tehran to enter talks about a new arrangement on the nuclear deal.

Since it pulled out of the deal, the US has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.

Mr Rouhani said Iran had never been after nuclear weapons and whenever the rights of his country are considered in plans and negotiations, "the road is not closed and the road is again open".

He said the plan could have been discussed during his New York visit last week to attend the UN General Assembly but US President Donald Trump scuppered chances by openly threatening to impose more sanctions.

Mr Rouhani said Mr Trump told Europeans in a private message that he was ready to talk but later said he wanted to intensify sanctions.

The Iranian leader expressed gratitude for efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron over the plan.

But Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that in the meantime, Tehran would continue to reduce its commitments under the nuclear deal until it reached the "desired result".

"We will continue the reduction of commitments," Mr Khamenei said in a meeting with commanders of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"The responsibility is with the Atomic Energy Organisation and they must be carry out the reduction in a precise, complete and comprehensive way and continue until the time we reach a desired result."

Updated: October 3, 2019 03:57 AM

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