Iran has indicated it has freed the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero on Monday upon the announcement by officials in Tehran that the ship is “free to leave” — though it’s reportedly yet to move out of Iranian waters.
This brings to an end the two-month standoff since the vessel had been captured by the IRGC in the Strait of Hormuz, in what was seen as an immediate retaliatory move responding to the prior July 4 seizure of Iran’s Grace 1, since renamed Adrian Darya 1, off Gibraltar by UK Royal Marines.
Semi-official Fars News Agency said the legal process surrounding the ship’s capture had been concluded, though from the beginning British and Indian negotiators have been involved pressing for its release (given many of the crew were Indian citizens).
However, it’s still unclear as to when the newly freed tanker will commence its voyage out of Iran’s waters.
The ship’s owner, the company Stena Bulk, confirmed Monday the Stena Impero is still in the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas where it’s been for the past two months.
It appears a good will gesture meant to thaw tensions most immediately with the UK, and also the US, given Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to meet with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The crucial UN summit is expected to deal heavily with the recent aerial attacks on Aramco facilities, which knocked out up to half of the kingdom’s daily oil output in the days following the attack.
This even after on Sunday Johnson publicly blamed Iran for overseeing the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities.
“‘We think it very likely indeed that Iran was responsible,” said the PM on his way to New York. He agreed with Washington that western allies should “do more to defend Saudi”.
“We will be following that very closely and clearly, if we are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role, then we will consider in what way we could be useful,” he told reporters, signaling the likelihood that the UK’s military would join any potential US strikes against Iran should the green light be given.