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Iranian oil tanker changes course to Turkey

August 24, 2019

The Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, has changed its destination to a port in Turkey. The US has threatened to sanction any party that takes the oil.

Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1
Image: Reuters/J. Nazca

An Iranian oil tanker at the center of a dispute between Washington and Tehran has changed its intended destination from Greece to a port in southern Turkey.

Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, was released in mid-August after being detained in Gibraltar for five weeks on suspicion of planning to deliver oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker, which is carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million (€115 million), as being south of Sicily, and has updated its listed destination to the port of Mersin in southern Turkey. The site estimated that the tanker would arrive in Mersin on August 31.

Sailors can enter any destination into the Automatic Identification System. Mersin may not be the ship's final destination. Mersin is around 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of a refinery in Baniyas, Syria. When the Adrian Darya 1 was released, Iranian officials had pledged not to send the oil to Syria.

The United States claims the Adrian Darya 1 is owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which Washington labeled as a foreign terrorist organization earlier this year. The United States has warned countries around the Mediterranean they could be sanctioned for taking the oil.

Read moreWhat is Iran's Revolutionary Guard? 

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Destination Turkey? 

The US threat comes as relations between Ankara and Washington are strained over Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system and differences over the war in Syria.

Turkey has opposed US sanctions on Iran implemented in the wake of Washington's unilateral withdrawal last year from the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. The sanctions have battered Iran's economy and seen oil exports decrease to a trickle.

Iran is one of Turkey's top trading partners, with nearly $9 billion in bilateral trade between the neighbors in 2018, according to data from the Turkish Trade Ministry.   

In May, Turkey halted purchases of Iranian oil when US sanction waivers to eight buyers of Iranian oil expired. In 2018, Turkey had imported about a quarter of its oil from Iran.

During the time of international sanctions on Iran prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, Turkey had been at the center of an elaborate oil-for-gold scheme to bust US sanctions. 

Meanwhile, Iran continues to hold the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which Revolutionary Guard commandos seized in July in the Persian Gulf after British special forces detained the Grace 1 off Gibraltar.

cw/rc (AP, Reuters)

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