oil supertanker Grace 1 gibraltar
© Reuters / Jon Nazca
The oil supertanker Grace 1, that's on suspicion of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria, sits anchored in waters of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, July 4, 2019.
Tehran has denied that the oil tanker seized by the UK near Gibraltar was destined for Syria, as the British government has claimed. Iran has said it now expects to use legal avenues to secure the return of its vessel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday that the Iranian supertanker was travelling in international waters near Gibraltar because its large cargo -- two million barrels of oil -- prevented the ship from using the Suez Canal.

Contrary to claims by the British government, he insisted that the vessel, flying a Panama flag and owned by a Singaporean company, was not destined for Syria. The Iranian official added that the British had no legal right to seize the tanker and that Tehran hopes to resolve the issue through legal means.

On Thursday, British marines and Gibraltar police seized the Iranian tanker off the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria "in violation" of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus.

A top commander of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tweeted after the incident that a British ship should be seized in retaliation, should Britain refuse to release the Iranian vessel.

Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US' unilateral sanctions against Iran.