British Royal Marines and officials in Gibraltar have detained a supertanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions.
The Grace 1 vessel was halted in the early hours of Thursday by Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of marines.
'We have reason to believe that the 'Grace 1' was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria,' Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.
'That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.'
The Grace 1 is a Panamanian-flagged tanker, according to the shipping trade publication Lloyd's List.
'We have detained the vessel and its cargo,' Picardo added.
The UK Government has welcomed 'firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities' in intercepting the tanker, and praised Gibraltar's authorities for 'acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime.'
European Union sanctions against Syria have been in force since late 2011.
The 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on 277 Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the 'violent repression' of civilians.
It has frozen the assets of some 72 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the European Union.
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory, a small rocky outcrop on Spain's southern tip.
Source: National News Agency