Published: Mon, September 02, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

USA blacklists Iranian oil tanker accused of skirting sanctions on Syria

USA blacklists Iranian oil tanker accused of skirting sanctions on Syria

"Anyone providing support to the Adrian Darya 1 risks being sanctioned", Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

According to maritime traffic monitoring websites, the huge tanker is now just west of the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.

Experts note the crew of a vessel can input any destination in the AIS system and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Norway during a trip to Oslo that the vessel is actually headed toward Lebanese waters. Speaking in Oslo, Norway, the diplomat said the Turkish state and Turkish private companies were no longer buying oil from Iran, in line with US sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there's "reliable information" the vessel was on course to Tartus, a major Syrian port city which is also home to a Russian naval base.

According to the Department of the Treasury, the tanker was transporting 2.1 billion barrels of Iranian crude, "ultimately benefitting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force".

After its release, it stated that its destination was the Greek port of Kalamata, then Turkey's Mersin.

"It was a big mistake to trust Zarif", he added, referring to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had given assurances to Britain the tanker would not sail to Syria.

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Turkey said on Friday the tanker was headed to Lebanon's waters, but the United States later said the ship was sailing to Syria. "The path to relief is to change course and not allow the (Guard) to profit from illicit oil sales".

Iskenderun is about 200 kilometers by sea from a refinery in Baniyas, Syria, where the ship was reported to be heading before being seized off Gibraltar in early July.

The tanker has taken centre stage recently amid a crisis roiling the Gulf region and escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew past year from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal brokered between Iran and several world powers. Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borell said that the vessel had been seized at the U.S. request.

An Iranian-flagged oil tanker that has been pursued by the United States in the Mediterranean Sea for weeks has changed course once again, with questions remaining as to its true destination.

"The Energy Ministry does not buy crude oil from any country and Lebanon does not own a crude oil refinery", she noted in the statement. The U.S. under President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions on Iran that are battering its economy.

'The destination is determined by the owner of the oil, ' the Iranian government spokesman said, according to state television.

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