Turkey says that an Iranian oil tanker at the centre of a confrontation between Washington and Tehran is headed to Lebanon’s waters, but the United States later said the ship was sailing to Syria.
According to Refinitiv tracking data, the Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, after changing course several times headed on Friday for Turkey’s Iskenderun port, 200 km north of Syria’s Baniyas refinery, the tanker’s suspected original destination.
When the ship was released off Gibraltar in mid-August after a five-week standoff, Iran assured Britain that the cargo was not headed to Syria.
The latest twist sets it in the direction of Syria, and raises the possibility that a ship-to-ship transfer of cargo may be attempted once it nears Lebanon’s coast.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet late: “We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria.”
Mr Pompeo had earlier said that if the tanker went to Syria, Washington would take every action it could consistent with US sanctions.
FM @JZarif guaranteed to the UK that the IRGC oil tanker #Grace1 / #AdrianDarya1 would not head to Syria. We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria. I hope it changes course. It was a big mistake to trust Zarif. pic.twitter.com/ZJ06MWjvCO
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 30, 2019
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that despite the tracking data, the tanker was “for sure” not going to Turkish ports but rather towards Lebanese waters.
Earlier on Friday, the minister told Reuters the ship was headed to Lebanon’s “main” port.
“I didn’t mean that this tanker is going to a Lebanese port, but (rather) according to the information coordinates it is heading to the territorial waters of the country,” he later told reporters at an Oslo forum.
“It doesn’t mean that it is going to reach a Lebanese port,” he said of the tanker that was carrying two million barrels of oil when released at Gibraltar.
“We are monitoring it very closely.”
In response, Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said in a separate interview: “We have not been informed of the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya heading (here).”