Gibraltar Persian Gulf Tension

A view of the Grace 1 supertanker is seen backdropped by Gibraltar's Rock, as it stands at anchor in the British territory of Gibraltar, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, seized last month in a British Royal Navy operation off Gibraltar. The United States moved on Thursday to halt the release of the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, detained in Gibraltar for breaching EU sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, thwarting efforts by authorities in London and the British overseas territory to defuse tensions with Tehran.(AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

MADRID | The British overseas territory of Gibraltar released a seized Iranian supertanker Thursday over last-minute objections from the U.S., potentially easing tensions between London and Tehran, which still holds a British-flagged vessel.

The release of the Grace 1 comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

In past weeks, the Persian Gulf region has seen six attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. has blamed on Iran and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone by Iranian forces. Iran denied it was behind the tanker attacks, although it has seized other tankers.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the U.S. still could begin a new legal procedure for seizing the Grace 1, but that provisions under the European Union’s sanctions regulations were ending Thursday after the Iranian government assured him in writing that the ship will not send its 2.1 million barrels of crude to a sanctioned entity in Syria.

Reacting to the developments, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the U.S. of trying to “steal our property on the high seas.”

“Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its #EconomicTerrorism — including depriving cancer patients of medicine — the U.S. attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas,” Zarif tweeted, calling the Trump administration’s moves a “piracy attempt.”

It was not clear whether the Grace 1 would sail away immediately; nor was it known what the U.S. government’s strategy was. The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.