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Germany voices support for UK in Iran tanker dispute

Grace 1 evening170719 (Photo John Bugeja)

The German government yesterday voiced public support for the UK in its maritime stand-off with Iran.

A spokesman for the German foreign ministry told the Financial Times the UK had been right to intercept the Iranian vessel heading for Syria earlier this month.

“The action that was taken off Gibraltar was the implementation of sanctions law [against Syria]. . . The sanctions are obviously compliant with international law,” a spokesman said.

“The implementation of the EU sanctions falls to the relevant national authorities and we have no doubt that the authorities followed the law during implementation.”

Iran’s detention of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was “different”, the spokesman added.

“For us it is absolutely clear that this detention has to be condemned.”

“According to our British partners and to publicly available shipping trackers the vessel was outside Iranian waters at the relevant moment . . . The detention is clearly a violation of international law.”

Over the weekend Germany condemned the "unjustifiable" seizure by Iran of two merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz and said the move dangerously exacerbated an already tense situation in the area.

Iran seized the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker, on Friday.

"We urge Iran to release (this)... ship and its crew immediately," a German foreign ministry spokesman said.

A further escalation of regional tensions "would be very dangerous (and)... undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis," the spokesman told Reuters in a statement.