No docking request from Iran tanker, says Lebanon

The Adrian Darya ship was held for weeks off Gibraltar after it was seized by authorities on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on oil sales to Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 August 2019

No docking request from Iran tanker, says Lebanon

  • Iranian tanker bouncing around the Mediterranean amid US warnings

BEIRUT: Lebanon dismissed Turkish claims on Friday that it would receive the Adrian Darya, an Iranian tanker which has been bouncing around the Mediterranean amid US warnings over its valuable oil cargo.

Every change of tack from the huge vessel, with its cargo of 2.1 barrels worth around $140 million, has sparked intense speculation.

It was detained for six weeks by the British territory of Gibraltar and released despite a US attempt to keep it detained on suspicion that its cargo was bound for Syria.

While Iran has denied selling the oil to its Damascus ally, experts said the likely scenario was for a ship-to-ship transfer, with a Syrian port as the final destination.

Maritime traffic monitors had shown that the Adrian Darya’s latest listed destinations, which are not necessarily the next approved port of call, were in Turkey.

After tracking sites showed Mersin as its destination, it then switched to Iskenderun, prompting a reaction from Turkey’s foreign minister Friday.

“This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun (in Turkey), this tanker is heading to Lebanon,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Oslo.

Lebanon swiftly dismissed the scenario, stressing that it never buys crude oil because it simply does not have refineries.

“The Energy Ministry does not buy crude oil from any country and Lebanon does not own a crude oil refinery,” Energy Minister Nada Boustani said in a statement. She said Lebanon had not received any docking request from the tanker.

“There is also no request for the Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker to enter Lebanon,” Boustani said.

According to maritime traffic monitoring websites, the huge tanker is currently just west of the island nation of Cyprus.

Iran said Monday it had “sold the oil” aboard the tanker and that the owner will decide the destination.

It did not identify the buyer or say whether the oil had been sold before or after the tanker’s detention in the Strait of Gibraltar, on Spain’s southern tip.

The ship was seized by Gibraltar police and British special forces on July 4 and held for six weeks on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

But Iran denied the charge and said it could not name the actual destination due to US sanctions on its oil sales. In July, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps impounded a British-flagged tanker in strategic Gulf waters. 

Britain called it a tit-for-tat move but Tehran denied any connection.

A court in the British territory ordered the tanker’s release on Aug. 15 despite a last-minute legal bid by the US to have it detained.

The Adrian Darya 1 set sail for the eastern Mediterranean three days after it was released.

According to maritime traffic monitoring websites, the huge tanker has changed direction multiple times, following no apparent logic.

The specialized TankerTrackers social media account noted Friday after the vessel listed Iskenderun as its destination that little could be read into it.

“Consider this just a record update rather than anything substantial. We believe a transfer is still a few days away. Turkey will not import this oil,” it said.

It earlier described it as “aimlessly moseying around the Med.”

Tensions between arch-enemies Iran and the US have soared ever since Washington stepped up its campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran and reimposed sanctions after leaving the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year.

Syria, which has ports on the Mediterranean, is also under a raft of US and European sanctions over its eight-year-old conflict.

Russia, which together with Iran, is Damascus’s key ally in the conflict announced Friday that a cease-fire would come into force in the northwestern region of Idlib.

Israeli attorney general to decide on Netanyahu charges

Updated 10 min 7 sec ago

Israeli attorney general to decide on Netanyahu charges

JERUSALEM: Israel’s attorney general scheduled a Thursday night news conference to announce his long-awaited decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption scandals.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s ruling promises to upend the Israeli political world after two inconclusive elections.
If, as widely expected, he presses charges against the prime minister, it would deal a heavy blow to Netanyahu’s hopes to remaining in office. If Netanyahu is cleared, it would give him a major boost as the country braces for the possibility of its third election in under a year.
The allegations against Netanyahu include suspicions that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.  
Netanyahu has called the allegations part of a witch hunt, lashing out against the media, police, prosecutors and the justice system.
Netanyahu scheduled a press conference at 6:30 p.m. GMT, an hour after Mandelblit’s expected announcement.