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Russian Foreign Ministry Sees Tanker Seizure as British Provocation

July 6, 2019 (EIRNS)—The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement yesterday, clearly indicating that it considers the July 4 British seizure of an oil tanker off Gibraltar as a provocation.

“We view the seizure of the vessel and its cargo as a deliberate action aimed at aggravating the situation around Iran and Syria. Laudatory comments by top U.S. and British officials immediately after the operation confirm this conclusion and prove that the action had been long in the making with the involvement of respective services and agencies of several countries,”

according to the statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website. Furthermore, the ministry stressed that this operation runs counter to the commitments declared by the European Union’s leading nations, including the United Kingdom, to spare no effort to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the United Kingdom is making no secret of its intention to use the incident with the tanker to augment pressure on the “Bashar Assad regime.”

“[W]e are convinced that this step contradicts the stated intent of the EU’s leading nations, including the U.K., to work to preserve the nuclear agreements with Iran. ... We see here yet another sharp contrast between British officials’ statements in support of Syrian settlement on the basis of universally accepted norms of international law, including UNSC Resolution 2254, and their practical steps,”

the ministry stressed.

The British seized the Panama-flag tanker allegedly because Gibraltar authorities determined that it was headed to the Syrian oil terminal of Baniyas. Two weeks ago, it turns out, the submarine pipelines that carry crude oil from the terminal to the onshore Baniyas refinery were the target of sabotage attacks using explosives. The damage to the pipelines was first reported by Al Masdar News on June 24 and the story was subsequently picked up by The National of the U.A.E. on July 4. The sabotage delayed unloading an Iranian tanker that arrived at the terminal a day or two after the sabotage was discovered, but didn’t prevent it.

What connection there might be, if any, between the sabotage—responsibility for which has not been claimed—the sanctions against Syria, and the U.S. campaign against Iranian oil exports has not been established.

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