Iran to free seven crew members of seized British-flagged tanker

Iran has said it will free seven crew members of a British-flagged tanker seized in the strait of Hormuz in July, as the country’s president gave Europe a two-month deadline to save its nuclear deal.

The seven, who are part of a 23-member crew comprising Indian, Russian, Latvia and Filipino nationals, were allowed to leave the Stena Impero tanker on humanitarian grounds and will be able to leave Iran soon, Iranian state television reported. The vessel’s owner said it had yet to receive any official confirmation of the release date.

The Swedish-owned tanker was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on 19 July, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

“We have no problem with the crew and the captain and the issue is violations that the vessel committed,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, told the television station.Advertisement

Responding to the announcement, Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk’s president and chief executive, said: “We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over and they may return to their families. However, we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date.

“We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus.” The company said the remaining 16 crew members would remain onboard to safely operate the vessel.

The announcement came as Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani,said that “extraordinary” steps away from the deal, expected to be revealed this week, would not take effect until later in the year.

French and Iranian diplomats have been holding talks on the future of the deal, which is at risk of unravelling since the US withdrew last year, with a focus on setting up a four-month $15bn (£12.3bn) credit line as a prepayment for Iranian oil sales.

Rouhani said insufficient progress had been made for a deal to be reached ahead of a deadline on Wednesday or Thursday for Iran to announce fresh breaches of the nuclear accord, but the steps would be implemented in two months’ time.

Iran has so far reduced its commitments under the deal in two respects: increasing its uranium stockpiles and declaring it would enrich uranium above the 3.67% limit.

The next step is believed to focus on research and development. “The third step will be the most important one and it will have extraordinary huge effects,” Rouhani said.

He said the number of disagreements in the talks between Iran and Europe might have been reduced from 20 to three, but that did not mean the talks had reached a conclusion. “Europe has another two-month deadline for negotiations, agreement, and a return to its commitments,” he said.

Source: The Guardian