The US has accused Iran of delivering oil to Syria despite denials from Tehran that the Adrian Darya 1, a tanker seized by British commandos and released weeks later, had been sailing to Syrian ports to sell the crude in violation of US and EU sanctions.
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said the tanker, which had remained off the coast of Syria for several weeks, had offloaded its oil via another ship called the Jasmine.
“Oil from the #AdrianDarya1 has been offloaded in Syria, proving that Iran lied to the UK and Gibraltar,” Mr Pompeo said in a tweet on Wednesday. “This terrorist oil will fund Assad’s war and Iran’s sectarian violence. EU members should condemn this action, uphold the rule of law, and hold Iran accountable.”
The UK had accused Iran last month of selling the tanker’s oil to Syria, saying the Islamic republic had violated “international norms”.
The sale — and now delivery — of the crude to Syria has angered and embarrassed the UK. British commandos had seized the ship off the coast of Gibraltar in July because it was suspected of violating EU sanctions by suppling oil to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Gibraltar, which is a British overseas territory, rejected a legal bid by the US to detain the Adrian Darya 1. It released the vessel in August after saying it had received assurances from Tehran that the crude would not be delivered to Syria.
The ship then headed into the eastern Mediterranean and was seen on satellite imagery sailing off the coast of the Arab state.
Iran has been one of Mr Assad’s main foreign backers in Syria’s eight-year civil war, and it has been known to supply the regime with oil throughout the conflict.
The seizure of the Adrian Darya 1, which was previously called the Grace 1, heightened concerns about maritime security in the oil-rich Gulf.
After it was detained in Gibraltar, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized a British-flagged vessel, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, a key Gulf waterway, in apparent retaliation. Iran released that vessel last month.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi