Theresa May discusses seizure of Iranian tanker with Gibraltar’s chief minister

By Tom Horton, PA

Theresa May has met with Gibraltar’s chief minister to discuss the seizure of an Iranian tanker.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo thanked Mrs May for “her support in allowing the Royal Marines to carry out the operation” in a statement.

The Grace 1 ship was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 after it was suspected of carrying a cargo of crude oil destined for a Syrian refinery, violating EU sanctions.

The ship’s captain, chief officer and two second officers were arrested and bailed and the investigation is ongoing.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister stressed the importance of Gibraltar’s independent legal process being followed and paid tribute to their efforts to implement EU Syria sanctions.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has offered to facilitate the release of Grace 1 in return for guarantees from Tehran that it would not breach sanctions on Bashar Assad’s regime.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the seizure of Grace 1 an act of “piracy” on Tuesday and told the UK to expect a response.

(PA Graphics)

The seizure prompted Iranian patrol boats to approach a British tanker as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz last week, with HMS Montrose having to intervene to drive them off.

The Number 10 spokesman added that Mrs May and Mr Picardo also discussed Brexit.

“The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s steadfast commitment to Gibraltar and expressed her confidence that this will continue,” the spokesman said.