BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian ship that Ukraine says is carrying stolen Ukrainian grain has left a Lebanese port after Lebanese officials cleared it to sail following an investigation, the Lebanese minister tweeted Thursday. transports.
The Laodicea, flying the Syrian flag, had been anchored at the port of Tripoli since arriving last Thursday, carrying 10,000 tons of wheat and barley flour. Ukraine claims the grain was stolen by Russia, a claim it denies.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ihor Ostash urged Lebanon not to allow the ship to leave port.
A judge on Wednesday ruled the Laodicea safe to sail, a day after Lebanon’s attorney general ruled the ship could leave after an investigation showed it was not carrying stolen Ukrainian grain.
Transport Minister Ali Hamie tweeted that “Laodicea under Syrian flag is now outside Lebanese territorial waters”.
It was not immediately clear where the ship was headed, but Marine Traffic, a website that monitors maritime traffic and the location of ships at sea, showed it heading for the Syrian coast.
Leaving Laodicea is likely to irritate Ukraine. The Russian diplomatic mission in Lebanon welcomed the move, accusing Ukraine of lying about the shipment and trying to damage relations between Moscow and Beirut.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned the Syrian vessel in 2015 for its affiliation with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, a close political and military ally of Moscow.
The spat over Laodicea came as the first grain ship left Ukraine since the Russian invasion in late February. The Razoni, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, carrying 26,000 tonnes of Ukrainian maize, was crossing Turkey en route to Lebanon.
A Lebanese official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the ship is expected to take about four days to arrive in Lebanon from Istanbul after being searched.
Lebanon condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which angered Moscow and its allies in Beirut.
The shipments come at a time when Lebanon is suffering from a food security crisis, with soaring food inflation, wheat shortages and bread shortages. Three quarters of its population live in poverty.
The Associated Press