LONDON, Sep 6 (Reuters / EP) –
United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Thursday that he has no intention of intercepting the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, renamed 'Adrian Darya 1', which was held by the Gibraltar authorities in July and is now heading towards the Greek city of Kalamata.
“We are not talking about plans, but currently I have no intention of sitting at my table and doing such a thing,” Esper said during a press conference in London, the country's capital.
In this regard, the Pentagon chief has said he supports the decision taken by other countries, such as France, to promote a series of talks with Iran. “My personal opinion is that, but I am not in charge of that, it is the State Department. If France and the others get the Iranians to sit at the table to talk, it would be a good thing,” he said.
The tanker in question, which is at the center of a dispute between Iran and several Western countries, disconnected its transponder earlier this week when it was in waters of the Mediterranean Sea west of Syria, according to portal navigation tracking data specialized Refinitiv.
The Gibraltarian authorities retained 'Grace 1' on July 4 on suspicion that he intended to bring oil to Syria, something that would contravene the sanctions imposed by the EU against the Bashar al Assad regime. Two weeks later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured the British tanker 'Stena Impero'.
The vessel was released on August 15 after receiving a formal missive from Tehran in which the Iranian authorities said the ship would not unload its 2.1 million barrels of crude in Syria.
The ship could not leave before Gibraltar by a US order that imposed the confiscation of “the vessel, all oil on board and $ 995,000 (about 896,896 euros)” due to repeated violations of the International Law of Emergency Economic Powers ( IEEPA by its acronym in English) “.
However, the Gibraltarian authorities declared themselves unable to comply with the seizure order issued against this oil tanker, claiming that the United States issued this order under the sanctions imposed by Washington against the Iranian authorities, in the context of the dispute between the two countries, and restored after the US nation abandoned the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 with the Islamic Republic.
Several senior officials have confirmed to the Reuters news agency that carrying out military actions such as addressing the tanker have not been taken into consideration since this would lead to escalating tension between the parties.
US President Donald Trump left the door open on Wednesday for a possible meeting with the Iranian leader, Hasan Rohani, in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly scheduled for late September in New York City.