Iran has freed nine of the 12 Indian crew members on board a Panama-flagged tanker seized on July 13 in the Strait of Hormuz, even as efforts are on for the release of 45 Indians on board this and two other vessels.
The release of the nine crew means that there are at least 21 other Indians who remain in Iranian detention, including three others from the MT Riah and 18 from the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker which was seized by Iranian forces last week.
In a related case, the supertanker Grace 1, which was detained by the United Kingdom while carrying Iranian crude through the Strait of Gibraltar, had 24 Indians among crew members. Diplomats are working to secure their release, India's foreign ministry said Thursday, a day after three diplomats meet the crew on board the detained ship.
Iran has hinted it is open to swapping the Stena Impero for an Iranian tanker, Grace 1, detained in Gibraltar on July 4 allegedly carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of worldwide sanctions.
The 18 Indian crew members on board the Iranian seized tanker, Stena Impero, were also granted consular access by Iranian authorities on Thursday, said Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan.
India is in touch with the Iranian authorities over these 18 Indians.
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Reports indicated that Iran has given consular access to the Indian sailors of the Stena Impero. Assured all assistance for early release.
The boats have been seized amid ongoing tensions between Iran and the USA since Washington began reimposing sanctions on Tehran.
A 3 member team from Indian Mission in London met all 24 crew members. "We continue to impress upon the Iranians to release them so that we can repatriate them", Kumar said. "Indian embassy has reported to find the crew being very calm with no sense of panic".
"Crew's morale is high. HCI London will facilitate necessary travel document and related arrangements".
Earlier in the day, Tehran said Indian diplomats had been granted access to Indian nationals from the Stena Impero crew.
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