S: Iranian soldiers seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, according to Iranian state television, just hours after Tehran threatened Athens with “punitive action” over the US seizure of Iranian oil from a tanker off the Greek coast.

“The Revolutionary Guards Navy seized two Greek tankers today for infractions in Gulf seas,” according to a statement released by the Guards and published by the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

It didn’t go into any further depth or specify what the alleged breaches were.

 

Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it sent a stern message to Iran’s envoy in Athens in response to the “violent takeover of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Arabian Gulf.

 

“These activities are comparable to piracy,” the foreign ministry stated in a statement, advising Greek people to stay away from Iran.

The ministry demanded the vessels’ and crews’ immediate release, claiming that such actions would have “especially detrimental effects” in bilateral relations as well as Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member.

 

An Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, according to the ministry’s statement.

 

“Armed guys then kidnapped the crew,” it added, adding that two Greeks were among the passengers.

“A similar incident has been reported along the coast of Iran on another Greek-flagged vessel carrying seven Greek individuals,” the ministry stated.

It went on to say that one of the ships was the Delta Poseidon, and that the second tanker was the Prudent Warrior, according to a representative for the Athens-based business Polembros.

 

The second ship, according to a Greek official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the attack with a journalist, was the Prudent Warrior. Polembros Shipping, the company’s owner in Greece, had previously stated that it was “cooperating with authorities and making all possible effort to address the problem efficiently.”

Nine Greeks were among the crews of both ships, according to the ministry, although it did not specify how many other sailors were on board.

 

The two ships looked to have been near to — but not inside — Iranian territorial waters Friday before drifting off into Iranian waters, according to a US defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence concerns. Another red signal, according to the official, was that the ships had turned off their tracking devices. According to the official, neither had issued a mayday or a cry for assistance.

 

Iran had promised “punitive action” if Athens was complicit in the US interception of an Iranian oil tanker in Greek waters earlier Friday.

The warning was issued by Iran’s Nour News website, which is allied to the country’s security services, just as shipping news site Lloyd’s List reported that two Greek tankers had been captured in the Arabian Gulf. According to Lloyd’s, the two ships were boarded as Iranian military helicopters approached them on Friday afternoon, citing anonymous industry sources. Both ships had recently been loaded with Iraqi crude oil, according to the report.

 

Due to EU sanctions, Greek officials confiscated the Iranian-flagged Pegas near the shore of the southern island of Evia last month, with 19 Russian crew members on board.

 

According to Reuters, Washington later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo onboard and wants to transport it to the US on another vessel.

Due to a misunderstanding concerning the restrictions imposed on its owners, the Pegas was later released.

 

The Pegas was one of five ships named by Washington on Feb. 22 — two days before Russia invaded Ukraine — for sanctions against Promsvyazbank, a bank seen as vital to Russia’s defense industry.

 

It was unclear if the cargo was seized because it contained Iranian oil or because the vessel was subject to sanctions because of its ties to Russia. The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran and Russia separately.

 

Iran also summoned a Swiss envoy, who represents US interests in Tehran, to protest the Pegas oil seizure, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

“The Islamic Republic conveyed its grave worry about the United States government’s ongoing violations of international law and international maritime agreements,” the foreign ministry said, according to state media.

 

The US Department of Justice’s spokeswoman declined to comment on the oil seizure.

 

According to Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, the tanker sought refuge along the Greek coast after experiencing technical issues and bad weather, according to IRNA. The capture of its cargo was described as “a blatant example of piracy.”

 

The US imposed sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force on Wednesday, citing a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network.

 

Two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged maritime violations. Both ships were eventually released.

(With the help of Reuters, AP, and AFP)

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