Gibraltar updated its sanctions enforcement regulations 36 hours before Royal Marines impounded an Iranian tanker when it stopped for supplies in the territory, lawyers have said.
The seizure of the Grace 1 earlier this month, which prompted Iran to threaten reciprocal actions, is at the heart of the crisis unfolding the Gulf.
The legal changes, reported by the blog EU Sanctions, suggest both that the operation was meticulously planned and that the authorities feared it would need a clearer legal basis.
Gibraltar incorporated Sanctions Regulations 2019 into local law on July 3, specifically giving its authorities the right to “designate and detain” ships if the chief minister suspects they are being used to breach EU sanctions. Details of the events leading up to the seizure of Grace 1 on July 5 have become central to understanding how Britain became embroiled in a confrontation with Iran despite its formal policy to “de-escalate” tensions in the Gulf.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has been accused of allowing Britain to be used as a pawn in the Trump administration’s determination to put “maximum pressure” on Iran. Both the Foreign Office and the Gibraltar authorities have denied that they acted at Washington’ request when they seized Grace 1. It was carrying 2.1 million barrels of crude oil, allegedly to the Baniyas oil refinery in Syria, a target of EU sanctions against the Assad regime.
However, the Spanish newspaper El Pais has reported that the United States sent a message to Madrid two days before Grace 1 arrived in Gibraltar’s waters saying that the tanker was on its way. The report makes it more likely that the tip-off to Gibraltar and Britain also came from America, which is keen to stop as much of Iran’s oil exports as possible.
The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has said the decision to impound Grace 1 was his alone [funniest thing you’ll read all week], but both sides have confirmed that he took the decision after consultation with the Foreign Office.
Source: The Times