TEHRAN The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement after an oil tanker of the country was seized by British forces in Spanish territorial waters, condemning the illegal move of London and describing it as tantamount to piracy.
According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement, British Ambassador to Tehran Rob Macaire appeared before the Director of the Third Department of Western Europe who described the UK move as unacceptable, and called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available.
Pointing to the fact that the oil tanker was sailing in the international waters, the Iranian diplomat described the British forces' conduct as being tantamount to maritime banditry and stressed that London has no right to impose its own unilateral sanctions or those of the European Union in an extraterritorial manner against the other countries.
This is the very bullying policy of the US, about which the European countries have been always protesting, he added.
In the meeting, the UK ambassador was provided with the documentation about the oil tanker and its cargo indicating the ship's completely legal movement.
It was also emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran will be employing all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.
The UK ambassador said he will immediately convey the protest to London, stressing that the UK does not follow the unilateral US sanctions against Iran.
Later in the day, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi took part in an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)'s News Network, saying, "We declared to the ambassador that this move amounts to strange unconventionality, because the sanctions that they have announced are not based on the Security Council [resolutions] and the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept this measure (seizure of the tanker).
The Iranian diplomat further stated that the Spanish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the move was made at the request of the US and that the seizure amounted to implementation of a type of extraterritorial sanctions despite the fact that the European Union has invariably been against such bans.
Mousavi said that Iran denounces the seizure as a destructive step, which contributes to further escalation in regional tensions.
Citing a Spanish source, France 24 reported earlier that the tanker had been seized by Britain at the US request.
Later in the day, acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Gibraltar detained the supertanker Grace 1 after a request by the United States to Britain.
Borrell was quoted by Reuters as saying that Spain was looking into the seizure of the ship and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty as it appears to have happened in Spanish waters.
Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.
Britain's Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Experts believe that the measure taken by the British government in seizing the Syria-bound Iranian tanker is illegal and can have serious consequences for the government in London.
Since Iran's tanker was carrying fuel and oil to Syrian people for solely humanitarian purposes, the measure taken by the British government is not only illegal, but also inhumane.
Iran and Syria enjoy vast commercial and trade ties and under the international law, Britain has no right to interfere in their relations.
The US has avowed an intention to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero as part of the sanctions that it reinstated after leaving a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran last year. Both Washington's withdrawal from the deal and its reintroduction of the sanctions came while the accord has been ratified in the form of the United Nations Security Resolution 2231.
Europe has suspended its trade with Iran, knuckling under the sanctions, despite being obliged by the agreement to safeguard Iran's business interests.
Earlier this week, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reminded the deal's European partners that they had undertaken 11 commitments to the country under the nuclear accord.
These, he added, include Iran's oil sales, secure financial returns from the sales, and investment in Iran, as well as facilitation of transport, aviation, and shipping activities involving the country.
Observers deem the seizure of the tanker on Washington's apparent orders to be another instance of the European states' non-commitment to the deal.
London has been for long blamed for following the US in anti-Iran policies, and in a most recent case of the British officials echoing Washington's anti-Tehran rhetoric, last month, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country would consider requests for military support on a case-by-case basis.
Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt said the UK government was constantly in touch with the US over the tense situation in the Persian Gulf.
He said, We will stand by the United States as our strongest ally but of course we have to consider any requests for military support on a case-by-case basis.
He further repeated the Trump administration's baseless allegations against Iran, including a tanker attack in the Sea of Oman, which Washington blamed on Tehran with no credible evidence.
It seems that in the Persian Gulf arena Britain is confusing diplomacy with warmongering and failing to make the desired impact.
Two weeks ago, Britain's junior foreign office minister Andrew Murrison was on a mission to Tehran.
During his visit to Tehran Murrison echoed Hunt's unfounded accusation against Iran by urging Iranian officials to stop what he calls attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
However, London's deceptive maneuvers fell on deaf ears in Tehran as Murrison was shunned by high-ranking officials, including Foreign Minister Zarif. More embarrassingly for Murrison, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, the political deputy at the Iranian foreign ministry, dismissed him as an inexperienced diplomat.
Source: Fars News Agency