Iran tanker heads to Greece after release, Iran warns US against seizure attempt

An Iranian flag flies on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 19 August 2019

Iran tanker heads to Greece after release, Iran warns US against seizure attempt

  • The Adrian Darya 1 has departed Gibraltar despite a US bid to have it detained
  • Tehran warned Washington against making another attempt to seize the Iranian tanker

DUBAI: An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean toward Greece on Monday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.”
The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive next Sunday at 0000 GMT.
The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a weeks-long stand-off between Tehran and the West. It also heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.
Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order on Thursday but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.

Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law. Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organization.
“We are happy this ordeal has ended and I hope this will lead to less escalation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while visiting Finland.
He also said the US warrant had no legal basis and was politically motivated to “make more escalation.”
Greek authorities had no immediate comment on the situation.
Iran said on Monday any US attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences.”




The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday evening. (Reuters)

Asked whether the United States could renew its seizure request after the tanker sailed from Gibraltar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such an action, and even the talk of it ... would endanger shipping safety in open seas.”
“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi said in remarks broadcast on state television.
Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.
The Adrian Darya 1, which was re-flagged to Iran after being de-listed by Panama on May 29, was fully laden and carrying about 2 million barrels of oil, Refinitiv data showed. The cargo was valued at tens of millions of dollars.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, while the European Union is still part of the accord, which allows Tehran to sell its oil.




The tanker was seized by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. (Reuters)

Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and has re-imposed US sanctions which place heavy penalties on any breaches even for non-US citizens and companies, including asset freezes and being cut off from the US financial system.
While EU regulations still allow for companies and citizens in the bloc to trade with Iran, falling foul of US sanctions has meant most banks are unwilling to process even authorized transactions such as for food and medicine, finance sources say.
This is likely to be the first major foreign policy challenge for Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis since he took office in July if the vessel enters Greek territorial waters.
Zarif said Iran could not reveal where the oil would go.
“Because of US sanctions we cannot be very transparent with the destination,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Greek coast guard said they had no formal information the vessel is heading to Kalamata and are monitoring the matter.




A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1. (Reuters)

TANKER HELD BY IRAN
Separately, a senior Iranian lawmaker said a crisis in Iran’s ties with Britain, which included Tehran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker last month, would not be over until the tanker reached its destination.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after the Grace 1 was commandeered.
“Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
“The crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” Falahatpisheh said.
Mousavi said that Tehran was waiting for a court decision on alleged maritime violations by the Stena Impero and he hoped the procedures would be completed as soon as possible.
The head of Iran’s judiciary Ebrahim Raisi also said “Iran should claim damages...to teach a lesson to those who acted against international laws and regulations by seizing the tanker.”
Iran has denied its tanker was ever headed to Syria, a close ally of Tehran.
The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.


Turkey, Greece agree to resume talks to resolve disputes

Updated 22 September 2020

Turkey, Greece agree to resume talks to resolve disputes

  • Erdogan called for a regional conference that would gather all sides involved in the dispute — including Turkish Cypriots
  • The two neighboring NATO members have been locked in a tense standoff over energy exploitation rights

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey and Greece are ready to resume talks in a bid to overcome a dispute over maritime boundaries and rights to exploit oil and gas resources, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said Tuesday.
The statement followed his video conference meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel.
During the meeting, Erdogan called for a regional conference that would gather all sides involved in the dispute — including Turkish Cypriots — and said the “momentum” for dialogue should be protected,” according to the statement.
The two neighboring NATO members have been locked in a tense standoff over energy exploitation rights in an area between Turkey’s southern coast, several Greek islands and the war-divided island of Cyprus. Turkey sent a research vessel into the disputed waters this summer.
Following mediation efforts by Germany and others, Turkey pulled back the research vessel to port and both countries eased their naval presence and halted military exercises, paving the way for a dialogue.
It was not clear when and how the talks would begin. Erdogan told Merkel and Michel that “steps to be taken by Greece” would determine the course of the talks.
Greek-Turkish talks to resolve disputes were last held in 2016.
The Turkish leader also said he hoped that the next European Union summit would breathe new life into Turkish-EU ties, including allowing Turkish citizens visa-free travel rights to Europe and sealing a new agreement on migration.
EU members Greece and Cyprus had been pushing for EU sanctions against Turkey at the Sept. 24-25 summit meeting to due Turkey’s search for energy inside Cyprus’ economic zone. But the summit has been postponed for a week because Michel has gone into quarantine after a close collaborator was diagnosed with COVID-19.