Portuguese ambassador in Tehran meets with Iranian MFA to explain ship incident

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Portugal’s ambassador to Tehran will meet with Iran’s chief diplomat on Sunday to obtain clarification on the capture of the Portuguese-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the Portuguese government announced today.

According to Foreign Minister Paulo Rangel, depending on this meeting, Portugal’s diplomatic measures in the face of this incident, which he condemned “vehemently with concern”, may or may not be stepped up.

For the time being, Portugal is demanding the release of the ship and crew, the minister said.

The Italian-Swiss shipowner MSC of the Portuguese-flagged vessel seized today by Iran near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf said that the container ship has 25 crew members on board.

“We regret to confirm that the MSC Aries, owned by Gortal Shipping Inc, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, and chartered by MSC, was boarded by the Iranian authorities by helicopter” and “there are 25 crew members on board,” the Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) told the France-Presse news agency (AFP).

The Iranian news agency IRNA has since reported that the Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian paramilitary force that has carried out similar raids in the past, will take the ship to Iranian territorial waters.

The helicopter used by the Revolutionary Guard to seize the ship is a Soviet-era ‘Mil Mi-17’, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Huthis, the Yemeni rebels, have used in the past to carry out commando raids on ships.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese government had already confirmed the seizure of the Portuguese-flagged ship at the end of the morning and had indicated that it was monitoring the situation, guaranteeing that there were no Portuguese citizens on board and that it had asked Tehran for clarification.

In a press release, the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it was a cargo ship, the MSC Aries, flying the Portuguese flag (registered in the Autonomous Region of Madeira), and that the company that owned it was Zodiac Maritime Limited, based in London.

The statement said that the situation is being monitored under the direct coordination of the Prime Minister’s office, involving the ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Presidency, National Defense and the Economy.

“There is no record of Portuguese citizens on board, either crew or command. The Portuguese government is in contact with the Iranian authorities and has asked for clarification and additional information,” says the executive.

Unlike Portugal, the Israeli army today declined to comment on the boarding by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard helicopter of the Portuguese-flagged ship allegedly associated with Israel in the Persian Gulf.

“No comment,” said an Israeli military spokesman questioned by EFE, after the Tasnim agency, linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, announced that “a cargo ship associated with the Zionist regime [Israel]” had been seized.

The incident comes amid the tension created by the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on the 1st of this month, which left seven members of the Revolutionary Guard dead. Iran has since promised to retaliate, with the United States warning that Tehran could respond over the weekend.

The captured container ship is linked to the company ‘Zodiac Maritime’, part of the ‘Zodiac Group’, with a fleet of more than 180 ships and owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

The ship left Khalifa, in the United Arab Emirates, bound for Nhava Sheva, in India, and the last position received was on Friday, in exactly the same spot near the Strait of Hormuz where it was seized.

Tensions, marked in the last six months by the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, have recently risen with the April 1 bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, which killed senior Iranian military officials and was blamed on Tel Aviv.

India asks Iran to guarantee safety of 17 Indians on captured Portuguese ship

Iran seizes Israel-linked Portuguese ship MCS ARIES

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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