Gibraltar 'followed EU law' with Grace 1 detention, Lib Dem MEP says
A Liberal Democrat MEP for Gibraltar has welcomed the Gibraltar Government’s decision to release the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, insisting the move was in accordance with EU law and should be supported by other European countries.
Martin Horwood, the Lib Dem MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, said the decision strengthened the Rock’s position as part of the European Union.
His comments are significant because the EU has so far remained silent throughout the Grace 1 saga.
Mr Horwood, who was also recently appointed to the European Parliament’s delegation to Iran, said: “Gibraltar has acted in accordance with EU law in releasing the tanker this week.”
“US sanctions on Iran are not recognised by the EU and there is no basis for Donald Trump to insist otherwise.”
“It’s hard to imagine a small territory like Gibraltar standing up to the US in this way without the full support of the EU, especially with the Johnson government under extreme pressure to stay in Trump’s good books as Brexit looms.”
Gibraltar seized the Grace 1, now named the Adrian Darya 1, on July 4 on suspicion it was breaching EU sanctions on Syria by shipping 2.1m barrels of crude oil to Bashar al Assad’s regime.
But despite finding evidence on board of the ship Syrian destination, Gibraltar released the supertanker after receiving assurances from Iran that the cargo would not be delivered to any EU-sanctioned entity.
The ship sailed from Gibraltar after authorities here turned down a separate US warrant for its detention on claims it was linked to Iran’s Republican Guard.
Gibraltar said it was unable to seize the vessel again because US sanctions against Iran went much further than the EU framework that applies in Gibraltar.
Tensions in the Gulf have risen further since last month’s seizure by Iranian authorities of a British-flagged ship, Stena Impero, in apparent retaliation for Gibraltar’s detention of the Iranian tanker thought to be heading to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Mr Horwood said he had already spoken in the European Parliament to warn against an overly hostile US approach which could lead to conflict.
“It is right to insist on safe passage in these strategically important shipping lanes, in accordance with international law,” he said.
“But Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions is strengthening the hand of hardliners in both Iran and its regional rival Saudi Arabia and could lead to a nuclear arms race in an already volatile region.”
“We need to maintain both UK and EU support for the deal and seek opportunities to de-escalate the immediate crisis.”
And he added: “I’m pleased to be in a position to strengthen our co-operation and influence with Europe on this critical issue.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that peace in the Persian Gulf hangs in the balance. While the Conservative government flirt with Donald Trump, Liberal Democrat MEPs are working with our European allies to de-escalate crises like this.”