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Crew on seized cargo ship to be released soon, assures Iran Foreign Minister

The 16 remaining Indian crew members on board a cargo ship seized by Iran are set to be released soon, Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian assured his Portuguese counterpart Paulo Rangel in a telephonic conversation on Saturday.

“The humanitarian issue of the release of the ship’s crew is of our serious concern and we have announced consular access, release, and extradition to their ambassadors in Tehran,” Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the Iranian Foreign Ministry during his discussion with Rangel on MSC Aries – the seized Israeli ship carrying the Portuguese flag.

Last week, Deck Cadet Ann Tessa Joseph, one of the 17 Indian crew members on board the seized vessel, returned home as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who had spoken to Abdollahian on the matter, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s guarantee works not just within the country, but also outside.

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Joseph, who is from Kerala’s Thrissur, reached the Cochin International Airport on April 18. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that it is in constant touch with not just the Iranian authorities, but also the Indian crew and their family members.

On Thursday, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said the crew’s return depends on “some technicalities” and “contractual obligations” that need to be fulfilled first.

“We had requested consular access for the 16 people, which we got. Our officers went there and met them. They have been in continuous contact with their families. They are in good health, and not facing any problems on the ship. As for their return, there are some technicalities involved in it. They have some contractual obligations that need to be fulfilled first, so their return depends on when those are completed,” said Jaiswal.

Portugal’s new government led by Prime Minister Luis Montenegro had also demanded the immediate release of the ship MSC Aries, trapped in the Strait of Hormuz. “The release of the crew was also demanded, which must be treated with dignity while the ship remains imprisoned, as the explanations provided so far are not considered consistent,” said the Portuguese Foreign Ministry as it summoned the Iranian Ambassador in Lisbon on April 16.

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