UK calls on Iran to immediately release ‘illegally seized’ tanker Stena Impero

The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations on July 19, 2019. (Mizan News Agency via AP)
Updated 24 September 2019

UK calls on Iran to immediately release ‘illegally seized’ tanker Stena Impero

  • Stena Impero was detained two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar, which has since been released

LONDON: The UK Foreign Office said on Monday that the tanker Stena Impero and its crew were still being detained by Iran, while calling for the immediate release of the "illegally detaind" vessel.

The statement came after an Iranian government spokesman said all legal steps had been completed for the release of the detained British tanker Stena Impero but that he did not know the timing of the release, the semi-official news agency ILNA reported.

“The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei, according to ILNA.

The semi-official Fars news agency Fars quoted Rabiei as saying: “The legal work of the oil tanker is over ... and the oil tanker can move and the decisions indicate the end of the detention.” He did not elaborate.

The chief executive of the Swedish firm that owns the Stena Impero, the British-flagged tanker detained by Tehran on July 19, earlier said on Sunday he had been informed that the vessel may be released within a few hours.

The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

Erik Hanell, chief executive of Stena Bulk, told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT: “We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours. So, we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken.”

“We hope to be able to head out within a few hours, but we don’t want to anticipate events. We want to see that the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters,” Hanell told SVT.

Hanell did not immediate respond to a request for comment.

On Sept. 4, Iran released seven of vessel’s 23 crew members. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the time that Sweden had been in daily contact with Iran at a high political level since the vessel was seized.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.