Oil supertanker bound for Assad regime detained in Gibraltar

Oil supertanker bound for Assad regime detained in Gibraltar
British Royal Marines in Gibraltar have detained the supertanker Grace 1 on suspicion of carrying crude oil to the Assad regime, the Gibraltar government said, in what a legal source said may be the first such interception of a vessel under European Union sanctions.

EU sanctions against the Assad regime took effect in May 2011 shortly after the start of Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that mushroomed into a protracted civil war.

Refinitiv Eikon mapping indicates the Grace 1 sailed from Iran, and if the cargo were confirmed to be Iranian crude, its attempted delivery to Assad regime could also be a violation of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports. 

Iran, a close ally of Assad, is also under a US sanctions regime meant to bar all international sales of Iranian oil, imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew Washington last year from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria.

“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. “With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”

Assad regime-controlled areas of Syria suffered acute fuel shortages earlier this year resulting from what Assad described as an economic siege. In May, Syria received its first foreign oil supplies for six months with the arrival of two shipments including one from Iran, a source familiar with the shipment said at the time.

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