ISLAMABAD: Iran has okayed the release of Pak­istani nationals on board a Portuguese-flagged contai­ner ship, which was seized by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz following its retaliation against Israel for an attack on its Damascus consulate earlier this month.

Diplomatic sources told Dawn on Tuesday that the Iranian government had granted permission to release Pakistani nationals on board the MSC Aries, which Tehran insists is linked to Israel.

Sources said the Pakis­tani nationals were expe­cted to be released within the next few days.

According to Reuters, MSC leased the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime. Zo­­diac is partly owned by Isr­aeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Although it is not yet clear exactly how many Pakistanis are on board the seized vessel, media repo­rts said that the ship’s chief operating officer, Muham­mad Adnan Aziz, and at least one other crew member hailed from Pakistan.

At least 25 people were on board the ship when it was boarded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz for “violating maritime laws”.

Diplomatic sources told Dawn that the men would likely be released “within the framework of the amicable relations between the two countries”.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s foreign ministry summo­n­­ed Iran’s ambassador on Tu­­­esday to demand the im­­mediate release of the MSC Aries, Reuters reported.

The ministry said in a statement after the meeting that it “will await the results of this formal measure and evaluate any additional steps, depending on those”.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2024

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