Mike Pompeo says Iran lied to the UK over oil delivery to Syria

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State - Bloomberg

The United States has demanded European countries hold Iran accountable for breaking EU sanctions over oil supplies to Syria after a tanker off loaded crude at a Syrian port.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said it was now clear that Iran  "lied to UK" over the destination of an oil tanker that had been seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar this summer.

"Oil from the Adrian Darya 1 has been offloaded in Syria, proving that Iran lied to the UK and Gibraltar. This terrorist oil will fund Assad’s war and Iran’s sectarian violence. EU members should condemn this action, uphold the rule of law, and hold Iran accountable," he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Tweet accompanied surveillance pictures purporting to show the tanker transferring oil to another vessel called the Jasmine on October 2.

A second picture purported to show the Jasmine moored at an oil discharge area near the Baniyas oil refinery on the Syrian coast on October 4.

The Adrian Darya 1, then sailing under the name Grace 1, was seized by British forces in July on suspicion of delivering oil to Syria, which would have breached EU sanctions applicable in Gibraltar's waters.

It was released by a court in Gibraltar in August following Iranian assurances that Syria was not the destination, but was reported to have off loaded its cargo of about two million barrels of crude oil at the Syrian port of Tartus in early September.

Britain at the time accused Iran of showing "complete disregard for its own assurances" and summoned the Iranian ambassador to complain of a breach of trust.

Iran had promised Gibraltar that the ship was not headed to Syria in order to secure its release from detention in Gibraltar two weeks previously.

It was not immediately clear if last month's reports of an oil delivery were mistaken or if the claims made by Secretary Pompeo on Wednesday referred to a fresh transfer.

Europe and the United States have been divided over Iran policy since Donald Trump's administration quit a deal, also backed by the EU, Russia, and China, designed to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions in 2018.

Since then the United States has pursued a "maximum pressure" policy of punishing sanctions in a bid to force Iran to accept tighter nuclear restrictions, end military support for armed groups like Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, and cut its missile program.

European countries, including the UK, have resisted US pressure to follow suit and have attempted to persuade Iran to stick to its nuclear deal commitments.