India in touch with Gibraltar for release of citizens

New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) India is in close touch with the Gibraltar port authorities for the release of 24 Indians on board the Grace 1 Iranian oil tanker seized in the Strait of Gibraltar by British marines last month.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: "We are pursuing the matter very closely with the Gibraltar port authorities and the shipping company."

He said the Indian crew were calm and composed and were in touch with their family members.

A three-member team from the Indian High Commission met the 24 Indians on board Grace 1 on July 24 and told them the government will take the necessary steps for their release and repatriation.

The Iranian super tanker Grace 1, said to be carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, was seized on July 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar as it was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

On July 19, Gibraltar's Supreme Court extended the period of detention of Grace 1, and set a new hearing for August 15, the government of the British Overseas Territory said in a statement.

On the 18 Indians on board British-flagged Stena Impero that was detained by Iran in retaliation, he said that an Indian team had met the Indian crew members on July 25, and found them to be in good health. "They have sufficient store of food and medicines, and they have spoken with their families. We are in close touch with Tehran, and are trying to see how early we can secure their release."

--IANS

rn/prs

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