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Iran says all crew of seized ship released on 'humanitarian' grounds

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian amd his Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna held phone talks on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says Iran has released all crew members of the MSC Aries which it seized in Iranian territorial waters on a judicial order last month.

Amir-Abdollahian made the announcement on Thursday in a phone conversation with his Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna who thanked the Islamic Republic for the gesture.

An Estonian citizen is among the crew members on the MSC Aries, a commercial ship with links to Israel, which the special naval forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized near the Strait of Hormuz on April 13.

"The seized ship, which had turned off its transponders in the territorial waters of Iran and jeopardized the safety of navigation, is under judicial confiscation, but Iran has released all its crew on humanitarian grounds," Amir-Abdollahian said.

"If the ship's captain cooperates, they can return to their country, including to Estonia," he said.

"Adherence to maritime laws and regulations by all ships is necessary and inevitable in order to maintain maritime safety," the Iranian foreign minister added.

The MSC Aries was impounded by the Sepah Navy Special Force (SNSF) in a heliborne operation and rappelling of forces on the ship's deck

A video released by IRGC at the time of the capture showed SNSF commandos rappelling down onto a stack of containers sitting on the deck of the vessel.

Deputy director of maritime affairs of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Marzban on Tuesday said the 24 crew members of the ship are in perfect health and have no concerns with regard to hygiene, welfare and safety.

He said there were initially 25 crew members, with Indian, Pakistani, Philippine, Russian and Estonian citizenship, but their female member was allowed to return to India with diplomatic cooperation.  

The Estonian foreign minister appreciated the humanitarian approach of the Islamic Republic for the release of the crew, official IRNA news agency reported. 

Foreign Minister Tsahkna underlined the importance of Estonia's relations with Iran, expressing hope that they will expand even more with the removal of obstacles. 

He also touched on the regional crises and called for the cooperation of all countries to stop the war in Gaza. 

Amir-Abdollahian said, "The depth of the tragedy of genocide and crimes committed by the Zionists in Gaza requires that all countries strive to establish a lasting ceasefire, completely remove the human blockade, exchange prisoners and prevent further crimes by the Israeli regime in Gaza."

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