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No immediate relief in sight for Indian crew on seized tankers

Posted in Featured, World

Published on August 05, 2019 with No Comments

The negotiations for the release of Indian nationals from tankers seized by Iran and Britain could turn into a long-drawn affair. British high commissioner to India, Dominic Asquith has ruled out any possibility of a swap with Iran for the release of Iranian tanker Grace 1 by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, and UKflagged tanker Stena Impero which was seized by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliatory action.

While Grace 1 tanker crew comprises 24 Indians, Stena too counts 18 Indian nationals among its crew. Four of the 24 Indians on Grace 1, including one who is the captain of the ship, is likely to face prosecution in a Gibraltar court for having violated EU sanctions by ferrying oil to a Syrian refinery. The unidentified Indian captain has accused British royal marines of using “brute force’’ to seize the tanker and has also claimed that he had no knowledge about the EU oil embargo on Syria. Asquith though said he was intrigued by the captain’s assertions.

“There is no swap going on. These are two different incidents. The current foreign secretary (UK) made it clear that it is not a game of swapping vessels,’’ said Asquith. “It is not for us to release the Indian crew on Grace 1. The Gibraltar judicial authorities have their own process, which we all have to respect… It is their own decision when the crew and the vessel is released. Just remember that on board that vessel was two billion barrels of oil which we strongly believe was destined to go to an EU-sanctioned authority,’’ he added.

Foreign minister S Jaishankar will meet his UK counterpart Dominic Raab on the sidelines of East Asia Summit foreign ministers’ meeting in Bangkok and the issue may figure in the meeting. Asquith said while the seizure of Grace 1 was in keeping with international laws, the action taken by Iranian authorities against Stena violated global laws as the tanker was dragged out of international waters before it was detained.

 

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