Iran said Wednesday that it will release seven of a British-flagged oil tanker’s 23 crew members, who were captured when it seized the vessel in July.
“We have no problem with the crew and the captain, and the issue is violations that the vessel committed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to Iranian state television.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Swedish-owned tanker Stena Impero, which was sailed in the United Kingdom, on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz, citing marine violations. The move came two weeks after the U.K. apprehended the Adrian Darya 1 Iranian tanker near Gibraltar and detained it for several weeks.
“The ship was in international waters when it was detained and was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations,” said Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping trade association.
The tit-for-tat has exacerbated tense relations between Iran and the U.S., which have flagged since the Trump’s administration withdrew in 2018 from the nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.
Most recently, Washington has warned Iran not to continue to conduct rocket tests, which the U.S. worries are aimed at developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, a charge Iran denies.
Iran’s economy meanwhile is doubled over from the heavy sanctions the Trump administration has slapped on the country.