OSLO, Norway — An Iranian tanker released after being detained for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar is now headed for Lebanon, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.
However, Lebanon’s energy minister said the country has not received a docking request from the ship which carries Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million and whose seizure had been requested by the United States.
Earlier the tanker was thought to be heading to Turkey based on information its crew entered into a navigation system used to track ships.
“This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun (in Turkey), this tanker is heading to Lebanon,” Cavusoglu said during a visit to Oslo, referring to the Adrian Darya 1 vessel.
The ship was suspected of transporting crude oil to Syria, in violation of European sanctions against the country, and the US has called for it to be seized.
The minister did not specify whether Lebanon was the tanker’s final destination.
“We still buy gas from Iran, but we don’t buy oil,” Cavusoglu stressed, adding that Turkey was monitoring the vessel’s progress “very closely.”
Lebanon’s Energy Minister Nada Boustani countered that the tanker has not sought to dock in his country and that Lebanon does not handle Iranian oil.
“The energy ministry does not buy crude oil from any country and Lebanon does not own a crude oil refinery. There is also no request for the Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker to enter Lebanon,” Boustani said on social media.
The crew of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, earlier in the day changed its listed destination in its Automatic Identification System to Iskenderun, Turkey, a small port on the Mediterranean Sea.
However, mariners can input any destination into the AIS, so Turkey may not be its true destination. On August 24, it had listed its destination as Mersin, Turkey, before removing that from its system. Earlier, it had said it was going to Greece.
A court in the British territory ordered the tanker’s release on August 15 despite a last-minute legal bid by the United States to have it detained.
The Adrian Darya 1 set sail three days later for the eastern Mediterranean, carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil worth more than $140 million.
Iran said on Monday it had sold the oil, but did not name the buyer.
The tanker’s detention and later release by Gibraltar has fueled the growing tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.
In the time since, Iran has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the deal as the US re-imposed and created sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude oil aboard, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.