Iran seizes two Greek tankers amid row over US oil robbery

DUBAI/ATHENS, May 27 (Reuters) – Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, shortly after Tehran warned it would take “punitive measures” against Athens over the United States’ seizure of Iranian oil from a tanker that was stopped off the Greek coast.

“The Revolutionary Guards navy seized two Greek tankers today for violations in Gulf waters,” said a Guards statement quoted by Iran’s state news agency IRNA. It gave no further details and did not say what the alleged violations were.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said an Iranian naval helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged vessel Delta Poseidon, which was sailing in international waters 22 nautical miles from the Iranian coast, and took its crew, including two Greek civilians, hostage.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

It said a similar incident took place on another Greek-flagged ship near Iran, without naming the ship, adding that both actions violated international law and that Greece had informed its allies as well as lodged a complaint with the Iranian ambassador in Athens.

Greece-based Delta Tankers, which operates the Delta Poseidon, was not immediately available for comment.

Greek authorities seized the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, off the coast of the southern island of Evia last month over European Union sanctions.

The United States later seized Iranian oil cargo on board and plans to send it to the United States on another ship, Reuters reported Thursday.

The Pegas was later released, but the seizure sparked tensions at a delicate moment, with Iran and world powers trying to revive a nuclear deal that Washington had abandoned under former President Donald Trump.

Earlier on Friday, Nour News, which is affiliated with an Iranian state security body, said on Twitter: “Following the seizure of an Iranian tanker by the Greek government and the transfer of its oil to the Americans, #Iran has decided to take punitive action. against #Greece.”

It did not say what kind of action Iran would take.

The Pegas was one of five ships designated by Washington on Feb. 22 – two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – for sanctions against Promsvyazbank, a bank considered critical to Russia’s defense sector.

It was unclear whether the cargo was seized because it was Iranian oil or because of sanctions against the tanker for its Russian ties. Iran and Russia face separate US sanctions.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency later quoted an anonymous source as saying, “There are 17 other Greek ships in the Persian Gulf that could be seized by the Revolutionary Guards if Greece continues its naughtiness.”

“Informed sources also emphasize that Greece should take compensatory measures against the Iranian oil tanker as soon as possible,” Tasnim said.

NUCLEAR TALKS

A maritime security source said the other tanker seized on Friday was the Greek-flagged Prudent Warrior. The operator, the Greece-based shipping company Polembros, told Reuters there had been “an incident” with one of its ships, without elaborating further, adding that it was “doing everything it could to resolve the issue”.

The US advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which tracks Iran-related tanker traffic via vessel and satellite tracking, said Prudent Warrior was carrying a cargo of Qatari and Iraqi oil, while the Delta Poseidon was loaded with Iraqi oil.

Each ship was carrying about a million barrels, it said.

“This should have a direct impact on the JCPOA (nuclear Iran) negotiations and the chances of reviving a deal,” UANI chief of staff Claire Jungman told Reuters.

A US Fifth Fleet spokesman in Bahrain said he was aware of the reported attacks and was investigating them.

Also on Friday, Iran called on an envoy from Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran, to protest the seizure of Pegas oil, Iran’s foreign ministry said.

“The Islamic Republic expressed deep concern at the continued violation by the US government of international laws and international maritime conventions,” state media quoted the State Department as saying.

A spokesman for the US Department of Justice declined to comment on the oil catch.

IRNA quoted Iran’s Port and Maritime Organization as saying the tanker had sought refuge along the Greek coast after technical difficulties and bad weather. It called the seizure of his cargo “a clear example of piracy”.

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it describes as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money-laundering network for the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.

In 2019, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged sea violations, two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar and accused it of carrying oil to Syria in violation of the sanctions of the European Union. Both ships were later released.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos in Athens, Jonathan Saul in London and the Dubai newsroom Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment