Iranian oil tanker pursued by US changes destination to Turkey

The Adrian Darya was bound for Greece before being told it would not be welcome

An Iranian flag flies at Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, before being named as Grace 1, as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
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An Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean that the United States is seeking to detain has set course for the Turkish port of Mersin after Greece said it would not allow the ship to dock.

The Grace 1, now renamed the Adrian Darya 1, changed its destination from Kalamata in Greece to Mersin on Saturday, according to the Automatic Identification System used to track global shipping.

The Iranian-flagged tanker was detained in the British territory of Gibraltar on July 4 with a cargo 2.1 million barrels of crude that Britain said was being shipped to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. It set sail again on August 18 under its new name after Gibraltar authorities said they had received assurances from Iran that the oil would not be delivered to Syria.

The route taken by the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, now renamed Adrian Darya 1, since leaving Gibraltar. The National
The route taken by the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, now renamed Adrian Darya 1, since leaving Gibraltar. The National

The US warned that any country aiding the ship would face sanctions after a legal bid to extend the ship's detention in Gibraltar was rejected by the local government.

Mersin, which has an oil terminal, lies about  200 kilometres north-west of the Baniyas refinery in Syria that was allegedly the tanker's original destination.

The ship-tracking website showed the Grace 1's position on Saturday as just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. At current speeds, it estimated the tanker will reach Mersin in about a week.

There was no immediate comment from the US, Iran or Turkey on the tanker's new destination.

Turkey has supported the opposition to Syria's President Bashar Al Assad and co-ordinates with Iran and Russia, his main allies, in efforts to end the country's long civil war.

The US attempts to prevent the Grace 1 from unloading its cargo are in line with a tough sanctions regime imposed on Iran after withdrawing last year from the 2015 nuclear deal that placed restrictions on Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for access to the global economy. Washington is seeking to reduce Iran's vital oil exports to zero under a campaign of "maximum pressure" aimed at renegotiating the deal to include additional restrictions on the Islamic Republic's missile programme and its destabilising activites in other countries in the region, mainly through the support of military proxies.

The US alleges that the Adrian Darya's true owner is Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which Washington designated as a foreign terror organisation earlier this year.