UPDATE, 0930 GMT:
Iranian authorities are freeing the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned tanker Stena Impero, seized by the Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.
Government spokesperson Ali Rabaei said, “The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed, but I have no information on the time of the release.”
The Guards seized the Stena Impero, en route to collect oil from Saudi Arabia, in retaliation for Gibraltar’s impoundment of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 two weeks earlier.
The UK said the Grace 1, with 2.1 million barrels of oil, was violating European Union sanctions by seeking to deliver to Syria’s Assad regime. The supertanker, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, was released last month after Tehran’s assurances that it would not offload at the Syrian port of Baniyas.
There are conflicting reports whether Iran broke the pledge and delivered the oil to the Assad regime, sanctioned over its deadly repression of protesting civilians.
UPDATE, 0815 GMT:
As he departed for New York, President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at the Trump Administration.
#Iran's president: US Secretary of State (@SecPompeo) is continuously making illogical remarks. I have never seen this secretary to talk logically, and this is one of the wonders of history that a foreign secretary is always making untrue remarks. pic.twitter.com/7ZfKsxcsfn
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) September 23, 2019
The President chided the Administration’s refusal of visas to most of the Iranian delegation planning to be at the UN General Assembly meetings: “The reason for their unwillingness needs to be explained by them. Either they’re afraid of telling the truth or the truth is bitter for them.”
And he made an unusual, conspiratorial claim that Saudi Arabia and Washington were exaggerating “the damage to Aramco”, the Saudi national oil company, from the drone and missile attacks nine days ago: “The reason for this is because the US wants to dominate the region completely and take over all the oil in eastern Saudi Arabia. This is a major dispute of US with China and others.”
Meanwhile in New York, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at European nations, after the failure to establish an economic link to bypass the US sanctions, saying they “have failed in every single one” of their commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal: “They think they need some green light from the US.”
In February, Iran rejected a European Union mechanism, known as INSTEX, because of “humiliating conditions” such as the EU’s concern over Iran’s missile program, activities in the Middle East, and alleged involvement in bomb and assassination plots in Europe.
Through the summer, French President Emmanuel Macron pursued a $15 billion line of credit to Iran as part of his mediation between Tehran and the US, but Paris said conclusion was dependent on the Trump Administration’s acceptance — otherwise, French financial institutions risked American punishment.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on Sunday that discussions were promising until the “game changer” of the attacks on the Saudi oil complexes.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer is surprised when he sees few people with #Iran's Foreign Minister @JZarif before their meeting in New York. Zarif says "that's all the team they gave me, nobody has got a visa". pic.twitter.com/TiM0BhlVHi
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) September 22, 2019
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has ruled out any meeting between President Hassan Rouhani and Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly in New York this week.
Speaking from Iran’s UN mission, Araqchi said the Trump Administration must end “maximum pressure” through removal of comprehensive US sanctions, imposed last November: “To get real negotiations started, this economic war has to end”.
However, he did open the door to talks at some point, further stepping back from the Supreme Leader’s declaration this summer that any discussions with the US would be “poison”.
“To end this economic war, we first need a ceasefire in order to do real negotiations and find sustainable solutions,” Araqchi said. “Not only us, but no country will negotiate under pressure.”
Ayatollah Khamenei has refined his position in recent weeks, saying that there will be no talks unless the US returned to the 2015 nuclear deal, from which the Trump Administration withdrew in May 2018.
Araqchi presented that line in his interview with London’s The Independent on Sunday: “If Trump returns to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], we will again negotiate with the United States in the format of a 5+1 Powers [US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia] meeting.”
He referred to the mediation of French President Emmanuel Macron:
Mr. Macron and Rouhani’s plan is to have a ceasefire to be able to conduct real extensive negotiations and find a long term solution. This is the path and the road map that we believe will work….If we get to sell our oil, we will return to full compliance of the deal.
The American sanctions, tightened this spring, have cut Iran’s official oil exports by at least 80% and up to 95%. However, despite the “maximum pressure”, Trump had sought a photo opportunity with an Iranian leader, including at the UN General Assembly.
That possibility evaporated just over a week ago with the drone and missile attacks on two Saudi oil facilities, more than halving the Kingdom’s daily output. Yemen’s Houthi insurgency claimed responsibility, but US officials blame the Islamic Republic, saying the attack was launched from Revolutionary Guards base in western Iran.
Rouhani is expected to meet UN Secretary General several world leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and to give interviews to prominent US media outlets before he returns to Tehran on Thursday.
#Iran's president will meet UNSG & leaders of some countries including #France, #Japan, #UK, #Switzerland, #Spain, #Iraq, #Sweden & #Pakistan in New York. Rouhani will also have interviews with 2 American TV networks. After a presser on Thursday, Rouhani will leave NY for Tehran.
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) September 22, 2019