Iran has threatened to seize a British oil tanker unless an Iranian ship detained by the Royal Marines is released, the country’s Revolutionary Guards commander said on Friday.
Mohsen Rezaee said on Twitter Iran’s duty was to act alike, and seize a British oil tanker, unless Iran’s ship was released immediately.
British Royal Marines detained an oil tanker in Gibraltar suspected of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on Thursday a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.
The Royal Marines abseiled onto the Grace 1 tanker on Thursday and landed a helicopter on the moving vessel in pitch darkness.
Tehran has already summoned the British ambassador to voice its very strong objection to the illegal and unacceptable seizure of its ship.
But on Friday tensions rose as Mr Razaee wrote: If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the (Iranian) authorities duty to seize a British oil tanker.
Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies.
The 28-person crew on the enormous Iranian tanker are being interviewed as witnesses, not criminal suspects, authorities in Gibraltar said.
The territory’s police and customs officials have remained on board the ship to carry out their investigation, but the Royal Marines are no longer present, Reuters reports.
On Thursday Gibraltar said it had reasonable grounds to believe the Grace 1 was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria.
The EU imposed sanctions on the country in 2011 after Bashar al-Assad‘s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators spiralled into civil war.
Prime minister Theresa May’s official spokesperson said: We welcome this firm action to enforce EU sanctions against the Syrian regime and commend the Gibraltarian authorities involved in successfully carrying out this morning’s operation.