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Spain refuses port call to ship carrying arms bound for Israel from Chennai

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CHENNAI : Spain has refused entry to a ship carrying arms from Chennai to Israel to dock at one of its ports, its Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares has said. The Denmark-flagged cargo ship Marianne Danica sailed from Chennai on April 8 and was headed to the port of Haifa in Israel, according to maritime tracking portals and Spanish media.

Spain has been extremely critical of the rising civilian casualties due to the Israeli offensive in Gaza and, along with Belgium, has suspended arms exports licenses to Tel Aviv.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Randhir Jaiswal, at the weekly press conference, only said that they have seen the report of the ship and will revert with more information.

Meanwhile, a source said, “Investigation will reveal if the items on board were cleared for export and if the end user is the same as reported by The Guardian because there are items that are not banned for exports.”

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Thursday on the issue, Mr. Alvares had said, “This is the first time we have done this because it is the first time we have detected a ship carrying a shipment of arms to Israel that wants to call at a Spanish port.”

“This will be a consistent policy with any ship carrying arms to Israel that wants to call at Spanish ports. The Foreign Ministry will systematically reject such stopovers for one obvious reason: the Middle East does not need more weapons, it needs more peace,” he stated.

The ship was carrying 27 tonnes of explosives according to local reports. It was to make a port call at Cartegena in Spain.

In February, Mr. Albares said that they had suspended arms export licences to Israel since October 7, which he said made them “realise” the importance of a “fair and lasting solution” to the Palestinian cause.

The incident comes amid an ongoing row between Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s party and his coalition partners over another ship, Borkum, that was due to dock at Cartegena port on Friday over allegations that it was carrying arms meant for Israel. However, the Spanish government has said that the arms it is ferrying are meant for the Czech Republic.

Belgium had suspended two arms export licences to Israel.

“We welcome the decision of the Spanish government to deny the transit authorisation of the vessel Marianne Danica, in accordance with Tratado (treaty) on Arms Trade and Spanish law,” Amnesty International Spain said on social media platform ‘X’.

The timing also coincides with the Israeli ground offensive inside Rafah. According to the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) at least 6,30,000 Palestinians have been forced out of Rafah since the launch of the incursion on May 7.

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