A Gibraltar court agreed to release the supertanker Grace 1, which had been held since last month on suspicion of hauling Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions.
The US was seeking to seize the vessel, though it didn’t put in a legal request to do so, according to the judge in the case. The Gibraltar government said that Iran provided assurance that the ship wouldn’t sail to a sanctioned destination. The detention ends immediately, the judge said.
Iran had been engaged in efforts to free the ship, which British forces seized on July 4 off the U.K territory at the southern tip of Spain. The incident sparked a diplomatic row, and Iran later detained a British-flagged vessel, which it continues to hold.
The release of the Grace 1 appears to be the first thaw in relations between Iran and the West, which have grown increasingly tense after the US reimposed sanctions on Iran last year. The US blamed Iran for recent aggression in the Gulf region, including tanker attacks, and the British Royal Navy last month intervened to prevent Iranian vessels from impeding the journey of a tanker operated by BP. Iran denied culpability in both instances.
The tensions have threatened shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical chokepoint for oil supplies.
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