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Ministry of External Affairs in touch with Iran to secure release of Indians onboard seized British vessel

Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, at an undisclosed location. Photograph:( Reuters )

ANI New Delhi Jul 20, 2019, 03.35 PM (IST)

India is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriations of Indian nationals who were onboard the UK-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran, the MEA said on Saturday.

"We are ascertaining further details on the incident. Our Mission is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals," Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday seized British Oil Tanker 'the Stena Impero' following a collision with an Iranian fishing boat. 

Watch: UK says seizure of tanker is not acceptable at all

The IRGC had earlier claimed that the ship was being held for "violating international regulations," reported CNN.

There were no reported injuries as a result of the collision, cargo vessel owner Stena Bulk had said. The 23 people on board are of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality.

Iran announced that it has seized a British tanker Steno Impero. Hours later, US official said that Iran has also seized a second tanker, the Liberian-flagged MV Masdar, reported CNN. However, Masdar was allowed to carry its course after Iranian officials followed up with the ship on its environmental regulations and it's no longer in the Iranian waters.

"All crew are safe and well," Mesdar's manager, Norbulk Shipping UK, said in a statement confirming that the ship had been released.

"Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage," it said.

The UK condemned the seizure and said, "These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region."

Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump said that it proves that Iran is nothing but trouble. "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble," he said. "It goes to show you I was right about Iran." He also noted the "US has very few tankers going in because we're using a lot of our own energy," but said the American presence in the region was still robust.

This is a second time in two months that Iran has attempted to seize a British oil tanker. Last time, armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Early this month, British Royal Marines on Thursday morning (local time) had seized a supertanker on the suspicion that it was smuggling Iranian crude oil to Syria.

This comes amid strained relations and escalating tensions between Iran and the United States. The tensions began when the US pulled from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) last year, blaming Tehran for supporting state-sponsored terrorism and conflicts.

Following which, Washington increased its drumbeat of aggression and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran. The pact was signed by five countries -- the US, the UK, Russia, China and Germany, and the European Union -- with an aim to limiting Iran's civilian energy programme, thereby preventing it from developing nuclear weapons at some point in the future, in exchange for relief from sanctions that were crippling the country's economy.

A year after the US pulled out of the deal, Iran announced its partial withdrawal from the agreement. While Tehran is yet to withdraw fully from the accord, it recently announced its decision to increase nuclear enrichment in response to the new US sanctions.

Recently, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran recently announced that the country has officially surpassed the 3.67 per cent uranium enrichment limit set under the 2015 pact and could consider increasing the stockpile to 20 per cent in the future. 

Story highlights

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Friday seized British Oil Tanker 'the Stena Impero' following a collision with an Iranian fishing boat.