Iran will give India access to crew of seized Israel-linked ship

MSC Aries cargo vessel is linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer

Shweta Sharma
Monday 15 April 2024 12:31 BST
Related: Iran releases video showing missiles being fired at Israel

Iran will allow Indian government’s representatives to meet the Indian crew of the cargo vessel that Tehran seized on Saturday amid escalating hostilities with Israel.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian made the announcement during a call with Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Sunday night following Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards airdropped on MSC Aries about 80km off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and seized the vessel along with its 25 crew members.

The Portuguese-flagged ship is linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

The Iranian foreign ministry said that Mr Jaishankar “expressed his concern about the situation of the 17 Indian crew members in the ship seized by Iran and requested assistance from the Islamic Republic in this regard”.

Mr Abdollahian said: "We are following up on the details of the seized ship and soon it will be possible for the representatives of the Indian government to meet with the crew of the said ship.”

Iranian troops raid MSC Aries at sea on 13 April 2024 (via REUTERS)

Not long after seizing the vessel, Iran launched a massive missile and drone strike on Israel. The attack came in response to a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria on 1 April. The strike had killed 12 people, including a senior military general.

Although Israel claimed that it shot down almost all the Iranian drones and missiles – with help from the UK, the US and Jordan – the attack raised the spectre of a conflict breaking out across the region.

The Indian foreign ministry joined the UK and the US in expressing serious concern about the situation and called for restraint.

“We call for immediate de-escalation, exercise of restraint, stepping back from violence and return to the path of diplomacy,” the foreign ministry said.

“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation. Our embassies in the region are in close touch with the Indian community. It is vital that security and stability are maintained in the region.”

Mr Abdullahian has said the attack was an act of “legitimate defence” by Iran and that Israel’s war on Gaza was the root cause of the crisis.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had call on Sunday (AP)

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden has told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US will not support it in any Israeli counteroffensive against Iran, US officials said.

“We believe Israel has freedom of action to protect itself and defend itself, in Syria or elsewhere,” a senior US official said.

“That’s a long-standing policy and that remains, but no we would not envision ourselves participating in such a thing.”

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, told ABC on Sunday that the United States will continue to help Israel defend itself, but does not want war with Iran.

“And as the president has said many times, we don’t seek a wider war in the region. We don’t seek a war with Iran. And I think I will leave it at that,” Mr Kirby added.

“We don’t seek escalated tensions in the region. We don’t seek a wider conflict.”

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