Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Friday seized two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, hours after Athens assisted the US in seizing an Iranian oil tanker in the Mediterranean Sea.
In April the Russian-flagged Pegas was stopped in Greek waters for carrying sanctioned Iranian crude. (Photo: AP/File)
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers on Friday in the Persian Gulf, just after Athens assisted the US in seizing an Iranian oil tanker over alleged sanctions violations in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Guard’s announcement comes as tensions remain high between Iran and the West over stalled negotiations regarding its rapidly advancing nuclear program.
The Guard issued a statement on its website, accusing the unnamed tankers of unspecified violations.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Iranian authorities “violently took over” the two ships in an “act of piracy.”
Asked about the Iranian claim, Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins of the US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet told the AP that “this is what we are tracking,” but declined to comment further.
Iran had threatened to take “punitive action” earlier Friday over Athens being involved in the US seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Greek waters.
Iran’s Nour News website, close to its security services, made the threat just as shipping news site Lloyd’s List said it believed two Greek tankers had been seized in the Persian Gulf. Quoting anonymous industry sources, Lloyd’s reported that the two ships had been boarded after Iranian military helicopters approached them on Friday afternoon. It said both tankers had just been loaded with Iraqi crude oil.
The crude oil cargo of an Iranian-flagged tanker that was stopped in Greek waters last month has been seized and is being transferred to another vessel following a request from the United States, a Greek official said Thursday.
The official said following a “judicial intervention by US authorities concerning the ship’s cargo” the process is currently underway, at US government expense, for the oil “to be handed over” off the port of Karystos on the Aegean Sea island of Evia.
The official, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss the case, did not provide further details. A Justice Department spokesman in Washington and the US Embassy in Athens declined to comment Thursday.