Turkey and Lebanon 'block' Iranian tanker previously held by UK for 'shipping oil to Assad'

Turkey and Lebanon 'block' Iranian tanker previously held by UK for 'shipping oil to Assad'
An Iranian tanker wanted by the US for allegedly transporting oil to Syria is now reportedly headed for Lebanon after originally saying it was going to Turkey.
2 min read
30 August, 2019
The Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 is being pursued by the US [Getty]

An Iranian tanker released this month after being detained for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar is now headed for Lebanon, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.

The tracking site Marine traffic showed earlier on Friday that the Adrian-Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace-1, was headed to Iskenderun in southeastern Turkey. However, Cavusoglu denied this.

"This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun [in southern Turkey], this tanker is heading to Lebanon," he said during a visit to Oslo.

"We still buy gas from Iran, but we don't buy oil," the minister stressed, adding that Turkey was monitoring the vessel's progress "very closely".

He did not specify whether Lebanon was the final destination of the Iranian-flagged ship, though Beirut said it had received no docking request from the tanker

After being released from Gibraltar, the ship became the subject of a confrontation between the US and Iran. The ship is loaded with 2.1 million barrels of crude oil and is believed to be transporting them to Syria, in violation of US and EU sanctions.

The US has called for it to be seized, saying that the tanker is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which it has classified as a terrorist organisation.

The Syrian oil port of Baniyas lies 200 km south of Iskenderun and 200 km north of the Lebanese capital Beirut.

The Adrian Darya has changed its course and destination several times since it was released from Gibraltar, originally saying it was headed for Greece, then to Mersin in Turkey, before the Marine Traffic site showed that it was going to Iskenderun. Cavusoglu then said it was in fact going to Lebanon.

On Thursday evening it made a U-turn away from the Turkish coast, heading towards Cyprus, and on Friday morning it appeared to make another U-turn off Cyprus.

On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Reuters, "the Islamic Republic of Iran has sold the oil of this ship, and now the owner and purchaser of this oil will decide the destination of the cargo," without mentioning who the purchaser was.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the oil carried by the vessel “must not be allowed off-loaded in port or at sea”.

Iran is a key backer of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, providing it with military and economic assistance ever since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Agencies contributed to this report

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