◢ Iranian officials on Friday denied that any assurances were given to Gibraltar to release an Iranian tanker now sailing on into the Mediterranean, calling it a "victory" for Tehran. "Iran has given no assurances over the Grace 1 not going to Syria to secure its release," the state broadcaster's youth website quoted foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying Friday.
◢ A Gibraltar court agreed to release the supertanker Grace 1, which had been held since last month on suspicion of hauling Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S. was seeking to seize the vessel, though it didn’t put in a legal request to do so, according to the judge in the case.
◢ The United States applied on Thursday for Gibraltar to keep in detention an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a stand-off between Tehran and London, the public prosecutor said. Chief Justice Anthony Dudley made clear that were it not for the US move, "the ship would have sailed" from the overseas British territory.
◢ Iran expects an oil tanker seized by the U.K. in the Strait of Gibraltar in July will be released soon, the semi-official Fars News agency reported Tuesday. “Official and unofficial documents have been exchanged to resolve the matter and we hope the problem will be dealt with in the very near future,” said Jalil Eslami, deputy for maritime affairs at Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.
◢ US National Security Advisor John Bolton was Monday to sound out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on global disputes that include an escalating Gulf standoff with Iran. The hawkish White House aide is the most senior US official to meet Johnson since he succeeded Theresa May as UK government leader last month.
◢ France said Friday that it "needs no permission" to work towards easing tensions between Iran and the US, after President Donald Trump accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of meddling in the dispute. In a tweet Thursday, Trump claimed that Iranian officials want "desperately to talk to the US, but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France."
◢ A German senior diplomat who had been designated to run INSTEX, a mechanism to allow trade with Iran despite US sanctions, will not assume the post, it emerged Friday, following controversial comments he made on Israel. German's foreign office told AFP that Bernd Erbel, 71, had informed it "that he is not available for personal reasons.”
◢ Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi says inspectors monitoring Iran’s nuclear deal could benefit from more openness and suggested his country’s nuclear program holds a lesson for Iranian leaders. As a top candidate to head the International Atomic Energy Agency, Grossi faces the prospect of walking the tightrope between keeping tabs on Iran and other crises while steering the nominally technical agency through geopolitics.
◢ President Donald Trump on Thursday (Aug 8) accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of getting in the way of US policy and sending "mixed signals" to Iran. "Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the US, but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France," Trump tweeted.
◢ U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed maritime security, Iran and Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call on Wednesday. "The secretary discussed heightened tensions in the region and the need for stronger maritime security in order to promote freedom of navigation," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
◢ Reports alleging that fuel tankers appeared to breach U.S. sanctions against Iran were cited in court filings by a bank as it sought to seize the ships, accusing the owners of loan default. The accusations, which led to the the temporary arrest of the vessels in Singapore late last month, come as the U.S. seeks to isolate the regime in Tehran by cutting off oil sales, a major source of revenue.
◢ As Boris Johnson hurtles toward a no-deal Brexit that could leave the U.K. diplomatically adrift and economically vulnerable, President Donald Trump is looking to seize an opportunity to lure the country away from Europe on some of his top foreign policy priorities: Iran and Huawei.
◢ President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favors talks with the US if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic republic, despite his top diplomat turning down a meeting with US President Donald Trump. Rouhani said "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace" and "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
◢ Britain said Monday it will join forces with the United States to protect merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran, after Tehran taunted Washington that its allies were too "ashamed" to join the mission. Britain's decision to form the joint maritime taskforce with the United States marks a departure in policy under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
◢ Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, compounding concerns about the safety of shipping in a region crucial to oil exports. The vessel—the third foreign ship seized by the guards in the Gulf since July 14—is suspected of smuggling a large volume of fuel, the Guards said on their Sepah News portal.
◢ The European Union said Thursday it regrets the US decision to impose sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and vowed to continue working with him. “We regret this decision,” said Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela, a spokesman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.
◢ Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday mocked a US decision to impose sanctions on his top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, saying it showed Washington was "afraid" of him as tensions again flare between the arch-enemies. The US Treasury said the sanctions would freeze any of Zarif's assets in the United States or controlled by US entities, as well as squeeze his ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat.
◢ The United States said Wednesday it was extending waivers for three civilian nuclear projects in Iran, despite Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement. "This is a short 90 day extension," said White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy towards Tehran.
◢ The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a provocative move that diminishes the prospects for a diplomatic solution to rising tensions that have brought the U.S. and Tehran to the brink of war. The U.S. said Zarif, viewed as Iran’s most skilled diplomat, acts on behalf of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was previously sanctioned.
◢ Iran said Wednesday that European nations still party to the 2015 nuclear deal are "obliged" to allow it to sell and ship oil, amid a standoff with Britain over the seizure of tankers. "They (the European parties) have set out their commitments and announced them, they (include) the sale of Iran's oil, the transportation of Iran's oil, and the return of Iran's oil income," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
◢ French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday spoke with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and reiterated his call for a de-escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States, the Elysee said. "It is France´s role to make every effort to ensure that all parties agree to a break and open negotiations," the French presidency said.
◢ The United States has asked Germany to join an international naval mission to help secure the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the US embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday. "We've formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Strait of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression," said a statement by embassy spokeswoman Tamara Sternberg-Greller.
◢ Britain on Monday ruled out swapping seized oil tankers with Iran as a second UK warship arrived in the Gulf to conduct convoys that have irritated Tehran. A sense of crisis in the world's busiest oil shipping lane has been building up for weeks as Iran responds to US President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign.
◢ Iran said on Monday the US had rejected an offer from Tehran for more robust nuclear inspections in exchange for lifting sanctions because Washington is "not seeking dialogue.” According to foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, the proposal was made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a visit this month in New York to dismiss the idea of "Iran being against talks... (while) America is for dialogue.”
◢ Iran's neighbors have made talks impossible through their "hasty and arrogant moves", a top security official told Oman's foreign minister in Tehran on Saturday amid a tanker crisis. Oman, a past mediator between Iran and its foes, sent its top diplomat to the Islamic republic amid amplified tensions between Iran and the United States and its allies, including in the Persian Gulf.
◢ Iran on Sunday called Britain's seizure of an Iranian oil tanker a breach of an ailing 2015 nuclear deal, after remaining parties to the accord met in Vienna in a bid to keep it alive. "Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran's export of oil is actually against the JCPOA," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said.
◢ A Supreme Court judge on Thursday ordered Brazil's state oil giant Petrobras to refuel two Iranian ships stranded off the country's coast, a source involved in the dispute and a report said. The order came after Iran's top envoy to Brazil told Bloomberg that Tehran could suspend imports from the Latin American country if the issue was not resolved.
◢ Soaring tensions with Iran following attacks on tankers and drones prompted the Trump administration to call for a coalition of allies to protect ships passing through the Persian Gulf. This week, U.S. partners including the U.K. and France essentially asked to be counted out.
◢ Iran’s seizure and continued detention of a UK-flagged tanker deals Boris Johnson an immediate loyalty test: Britain's new prime minister may have to choose between Persian Gulf escorts led by Europe or by the United States. Which way Johnson leans could set the tone for a complex agenda that includes withdrawing from the European Union and striking a trade deal with the United States.
◢ The Swedish company that owns the UK-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran said Wednesday it had finally been able to contact its crew being held on board and they declared themselves "safe.” Stena Bulk said in a statement that the ship's captain "advised that everyone was safe with good cooperation with the Iranian personnel onboard.”
◢ President Hassan Rouhani hinted on Wednesday that Iran is open to a possible tanker swap with Britain and indirect talks with the United States over its nuclear program and sanctions. "We don't want tensions with some European countries," Rouhani said in comments to a cabinet meeting posted on the official website of his government.