ATHENS – Greece accuses Iran of “piracy” after Iranian forces seize two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in apparent retaliation for Greece seizing an Iranian oil tanker and allowing the United States to confiscate its crude.
The Greek Foreign Ministry has complained to the Iranian ambassador in Athens about the “violent seizure of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Persian Gulf after Iran said it had taken the ships. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said on Friday that Iranian forces had “confiscated two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters,” according to a statement quoted by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.
The Greek ministry called for the immediate release of the ships and their crew, saying that “the acts are effectively equivalent to acts of piracy,” according to a statement. The ministry warned that the confiscation would have “especially negative consequences” on bilateral relations between Greece and Iran and on Iran’s relations with the European Union.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry also issued a strong statement on Saturday, calling for the immediate release of members of the crew, one of whom is a Cypriot.
The confrontation comes after the United States seized Iranian oil from a Russian-operated ship near Greece. The cargo has been transformed into another ship chartered by the Americans and will be shipped to the US, according to Greek officials.
The two Greek tankers were seized on Friday. According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, an Iranian helicopter landed in the Greek-flagged Poseidon Delta while sailing in international waters, about 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran. “Then gunmen captured the ship’s crew, including two Greek nationals,” the ministry said.
“A similar incident was reported on another Greek-flagged ship carrying seven Greek nationals off the Iranian coast,” the ministry added. The second ship is the Prudent Warrior, managed by the Greek company Polembro Shipping.
Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, had warned on Friday earlier that Tehran planned to take “punitive action” on Greece to help the United States.
Tensions are high between Tehran and the West. Long-term negotiations to restore nuclear deal with Iran under US President Joe Biden stalled in Vienna last month with the point of conflict being the status of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). . Biden has finalized his decision to keep the IRGC on a blacklist of terrorists, further complicating international efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.