Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’

The Pegas tanker is surrounded by other vessels off the port of Karystos on the Aegean Sea island of Evia, Greece, May 27, 2022. (AP)
The Pegas tanker is surrounded by other vessels off the port of Karystos on the Aegean Sea island of Evia, Greece, May 27, 2022. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 28 May 2022

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused the tankers of unspecified violations
  • Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Iranian authorities ‘violently took over’ the two ships in an ‘act of piracy’

DUBAI/ATHENS: Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, Iranian state media reported, shortly after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens over the confiscation of Iranian oil by the US from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
“The Revolutionary Guards Navy today seized two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters,” said a Guards statement, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
It gave no further details or say what the alleged violations were.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it made a strong demarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Arabian Gulf.
“These actions are tantamount to acts of piracy,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, warning Greek citizens to avoid traveling to Iran.
The ministry called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, and said these acts would have “particularly negative consequences” in bilateral relations and in Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member.
The ministry’s statement said that earlier Friday, an Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters some 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran.
“Armed men then took the crew captive,” it said, adding that two Greek nationals were among the crew.
“A similar incident has been reported on another Greek-flagged vessel, that was carrying seven Greek citizens, close to the coast of Iran,” the ministry said.
It added that one of the vessels was the Delta Poseidon, while a spokeswoman at the Athens-based company Polembros identified the second tanker as the Prudent Warrior.
A Greek official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the attack with a journalist, identified the second ship as the Prudent Warrior. Its owner, Polembros Shipping in Greece, earlier said the company was “cooperating with the authorities and making every possible effort to address the situation effectively.”
The ministry said nine Greeks were among the crews of both vessels, but did not give a number of other sailors on board.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it appeared the two ships had come close to — but not in — Iranian territorial waters Friday before drifting off into Iranian waters. The ships also had turned off their tracking devices, another red flag, the official said. However, neither had issued a mayday or a call for help, the official said.
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 Arabian 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.
Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, near the coast of the southern island of Evia due to EU sanctions.
Washington later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and plans to send it to the United States on another vessel, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The Pegas was later released because of confusion about the sanctions over its owners.
The Pegas was among five vessels designated by Washington on Feb. 22 — two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — for sanctions against Promsvyazbank, a bank viewed as critical to Russia’s defense sector.
It was unclear whether the cargo was impounded because it was Iranian oil or due to the sanctions on the tanker over its Russian links. Iran and Russia face separate US sanctions.
Also on Friday, Iran summoned an envoy of Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran, to protest against the Pegas oil seizure, the Iranian foreign ministry said.
“The Islamic Republic expressed its deep concern over the US government’s continued violation of international laws and international maritime conventions,” state media quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice declined to comment on the oil seizure.
IRNA quoted Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization as saying the tanker had sought refuge along the Greek coast after experiencing technical problems and poor weather. It called the seizure of its cargo was “a clear example of piracy.”
The US on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
In 2019, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Both vessels were later released.
(With Reuters, AP and AFP)


EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 30 June 2022

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • “Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills said

UNITED NATIONS: The European Union said on Thursday it was worried it may not be possible to strike an agreement to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after indirect talks between the United States and Iran ended this week with no progress.
“I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line. My message is: Seize this opportunity to conclude the deal, based on the text that is on the table. The time to overcome the last outstanding issues, conclude the deal, and fully restore the (agreement) is now,” European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog told the UN Security Council.
The Security Council met to discuss the latest report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of a 2015 council resolution that enshrines the nuclear deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to develop an atomic weapon in return for sanctions relief.
“Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the meeting.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at breaking an impasse over how to salvage the nuclear pact ended in Qatar without the progress “the EU team as coordinator had hoped for,” EU envoy Enrique Mora tweeted on Wednesday. 


Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
Updated 30 June 2022

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
  • Security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace
  • Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations

KHARTOUM: Four protesters were shot dead in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.
In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching toward the presidential palace, witnesses said.
They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be at least in the tens of thousands, and to be the largest so far this year. In Omdurman, witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.
The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time autocratic ruler Omar Al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.
Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.
Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.
Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.
June 30 also marks the day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989. “Either we get to the presidential palace and remove Al-Burhan or we won’t return home,” said a 21-year-old female student protesting in Bahri.
It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that Internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended Internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.
Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the Internet once again on Thursday.
BRIDGES SHUT
Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri — another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.
In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests.
On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107. There were large numbers of injuries and attempts by security forces to storm hospitals in the capital where they were being treated, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.
There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.
The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.
Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.
Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.
Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African Union have so far yielded little progress.


Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
Updated 30 June 2022

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa conclude Manama talks
  • Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest”

CAIRO: In a joint statement at the conclusion of talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egypt and Bahrain stressed the depth of the two countries’ relations, and the need for coordination and cooperation to confront the challenges of the region, maintain its security and achieve stability. 

The joint statement was issued after bilateral talks at Sakhir Palace in Manama.

Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest,” and an “increase in the pace of economic cooperation for broader horizons that would support the common interests of the two brotherly countries.”

The two sides agreed to “coordinate joint efforts to combat terrorism and its organizations and prevent its financing, and to spare the region the dangers of destabilising activities.”

They also stressed “support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to abide by international principles of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, to preserve the principles of good-neighborliness, and to spare the region all destabilising activities, including supporting armed militias and threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines.”

Both countries highlighted “supporting international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, ensuring the peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear program, strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintaining the non-proliferation regime, and the importance of supporting efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.” 

With regard to the Renaissance Dam crisis, Bahrain’s ruler expressed “the Kingdom of Bahrain’s full support for Egyptian water security as an integral part of Arab water security,” and urged Ethiopia to abandon its unilateral policy in connection with international rivers, and to abide by the international laws related to filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

He also stressed “the necessity of negotiating in good faith with Egypt and Sudan to reach a binding legal agreement in this regard, in implementation of the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in September 2021, in a way that averts the damage caused by this project to the downstream countries and enhances cooperation between the peoples of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.”

The Bahraini side expressed its full solidarity with the Arab Republic of Egypt in all the measures it takes to protect its national security.

On the Yemeni issue, the two sides affirmed their support for international efforts to find a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis, in accordance with the approved international references, and the Saudi initiative to end the Yemeni crisis. They also expressed their full support for the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council to perform its constitutional responsibilities “to achieve security, stability and development in Yemen.”

They also affirmed their support for the UN armistice agreement in Yemen and welcomed the announcement of its extension. The Bahraini side appreciated Egypt’s response to the request of the legitimate Yemeni government and the United Nations to operate direct flights between Cairo and Sanaa in support of that armistice and alleviating the humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people.

The two sides welcomed the upcoming summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia between the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Jordan and Egypt, and the Prime Minister of Iraq with US President Joe Biden.


Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
Updated 30 June 2022

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
  • Indirect talks in Qatar's capital between Iran and US on reviving 2015 nuclear deal concluded with no progress
  • Iran says a deal could still be reached

TEHRAN: Iran insisted Thursday that a revived nuclear agreement with major powers remains achievable despite a negative US assessment of two-way talks in Qatar intended to reboot the stalled negotiations.
The US State Department said the EU-brokered proximity talks in the Qatari capital Doha had concluded late Wednesday with “no progress made.”
But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he believed the talks had been “positive” and a deal could still be reached.
“We are determined to continue negotiating until a realistic agreement is reached,” he said after a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who hosted the indirect talks.
“Our assessment of the recent round of talks in Doha is positive,” he said.
“I insist on the fact that we are making serious efforts to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement,” said Amir-Abdollahian.
“An accord is achievable if the United States is realistic.”
The two days of talks, in which EU mediators shuttled between Iranian and US delegations, were intended to reboot wider negotiations between Iran and major powers in Vienna which have been stalled since March.
The talks aim to bring the United States back into a 2015 deal jettisoned by the Donald Trump administration in 2018 by lifting the sweeping economic sanctions he imposed in exchange for Iran’s return to full compliance with the limits set on its nuclear activities.
Washington has “made clear our readiness to quickly conclude and implement a deal on mutual return to full compliance,” the US State Department spokesperson said after the talks wrapped up in Qatar.
“Yet in Doha, as before, Iran raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”
Differences between Tehran and Washington have notably included Iran’s demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a US terror list.
The talks in Doha came just two weeks before US President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the region, with trips to Iran foes Israel and Saudi Arabia.


Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is currently in talks with Algerian officials. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2022

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations
  • Madbouly arrived at Houari Boumediene International Airport in the Algerian capital on Wednesday evening
  • Algerian Prime Minister Ayman bin Abd Al-Rahman welcomed Madbouly

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is currently in talks with Algerian officials on the advancement of political and economic relations between the two countries during his two-day visit.

Madbouly and the high-level ministerial delegation accompanying him arrived at Houari Boumediene International Airport in the Algerian capital on Wednesday evening to head the eighth session of the joint higher committee between the two countries.

Algerian Prime Minister Ayman bin Abd Al-Rahman welcomed Madbouly, expressing Algeria’s pride in the strong relations with Egypt and its keenness to strengthen cooperation with the country.

It is expected that the visit will comprise meetings with senior Algerian officials and will see the signing of a number of memoranda of understanding between the two sides, especially in the oil and housing sectors. The Egyptian-Algerian Business Leaders’ Forum will also be held to review investment and trade opportunities available in the two countries.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune paid an official visit to Egypt last January, during which he met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Tebboune said that his talks with the Egyptian president “presented an opportunity to address economic cooperation” and facilitate investment between the two countries.

At the beginning of this month, Algeria and Egypt agreed on the need to transform their historical relations into “reciprocal partnerships” in the oil sector.

This came during official talks between the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohammed Arkab and the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla, which took place through a remote meeting.