Malta delists Iranian tanker breaching Syria sanctions

Malta delists Iranian tanker breaching Syria sanctions

The Maltese Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it was delisting a Maltese-flagged, Iranian-owned tanker which was carrying Syrian crude oil in breach of international sanctions, Reuters reported.

Reuters reported on Friday that the M.T.Tour, owned by ISIM Tour Ltd, identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a sanctions-evading company set up by Iran, was shipping a cargo of Syrian crude to a state-run Chinese company.

The M.T.Tour loaded the 120,000 tonne cargo of light crude at the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend, sent by the Iranian authorities after Syria was unable to find another vessel to take the cargo, worth some $84 million to the sanctions-hit Syrian government.

The ministry said the Maltese transport authorities took immediate action last week on learning that the Iranian ship flying the Maltese merchant shipping flag was carrying Syrian oil in breach of sanctions.

Any other Maltese-flagged ships found to be breaking the sanctions would also be delisted, it added.

"After the necessary verifications with the owners of the Motor Tanker 'Tour' and other ships, it was decided that such ships' registration certificates would be suspended immediately and they will be struck off the Maltese merchant shipping register within a month," the ministry said.

"Malta will continue to strictly observe sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union," it added. Malta is an EU member.

Iran, itself a target of Western sanctions because of suspicions about the goals of its nuclear programme, is among Syria's closest allies and has promised to do all it can to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A year-long revolt against Assad's rule began as peaceful protests but turned increasingly violent when security forces began shooting and shelling demonstrators, and deserting soldiers joined the protesters.

Western and Arab countries have imposed sanctions on Syria in an effort to force Assad to halt the bloodshed, in which the United Nations estimates some 9,000 civilians have been killed.

Syrian authorities say some 3,000 security force members have been killed in fighting against foreign-backed terrorists.

China has shielded Assad from foreign intervention, vetoing two Western-backed resolutions at the United Nations over the bloodshed, and is not bound by Western sanctions against Syria, its oil sector and its state oil firm Sytrol.

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