Greece releases Iranian-flagged oil tanker seized under US pressure
The Greek government has released an Iranian-flagged oil tanker, which was seized two months ago under US pressure to tighten its sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
On Sunday, AFP quoted a source in the Greek port police as saying that the seizure of the PEGAS tanker has been lifted and that the oil tanker may set sail again.
According to Press TV, on April 19, Greek authorities impounded the 115,500-deadweight tonnage PEGAS, with 19 Russian crew members on board, on the southern coast of the Island of Evia.
The tanker was reportedly carrying 115,000 tons of Iranian oil. Late in April, it was reported that the US Department of Justice had confiscated 700,000 barrels of the Iranian oil cargo.
The new development came after in mid-June, the Greek government overturned its recent decision to confiscate the Iranian oil tanker, dismissing Washington’s pressures which were behind the seizure in the first place.
According to a statement issued by Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) at that time, the Greek government ordered the release of the ship and its cargo despite sustained US efforts to do otherwise.
“The Greek government has eventually ordered the return of the cargo to its owner and lifted the seizure order thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s decisive and prompt actions, the pursuit of the matter by relevant bodies, and the support from the Minister of Roads and Urban Development [Rostam Qasemi],” read the statement.
At the time, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) described the seizure of the Iranian oil cargo as an “act of piracy” that was “in violation of international standards.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry also condemned the unacceptable surrender of Greece to illegal US pressures and reiterated that the seizure was an example of international piracy.
The seizure of the Iranian oil tanker took place at a time when talks for the revival of the 2015 Iran deal were gridlocked.
Days after the seizure, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf over violations.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said one of the vessels, the Delta Poseidon, was in international waters at the time, adding that the second tanker was near the Iranian coast when seized.
The Ministry also said nine Greek nationals were among the crews of the vessels, but did not stipulate how many sailors of other nationalities were on board.
According to AFP, the source in the Greek port police said Athens now hopes that Tehran releases the two seized Greek tankers in return.
Tehran and Athens had friendly relations before the unilateral US imposition of sanctions against Iran and countries working with it. The export of Iran’s oil to Greece was halted as a result of the bans.