TEHRAN/DUBAI: Iran said Saturday the crews onboard two Greek oil tankers it has seized in the Gulf are in “good health” and not under arrest.
Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, 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 crew of the two Greek tankers have not been arrested, and all crew members … are in good health and are being protected, and provided with necessary services while on board, in accordance with international law,” Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said in a statement carried by state media.
The two vessels were stopped over unspecified “maritime violations,” the body said.
Greece has condemned Tehran’s detention of the two ships as “tantamount to acts of piracy” and warned its citizens not to travel to Iran.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet that the crews were “safe and in good health.”
He described ties between the two countries as having “always been based on mutual respect,” adding that they “must not be hampered by deeply shortsighted miscalculations, including highway robbery on the command of a third party.”
Separately, Nour News, affiliated to an Iranian state security body, said: “Iran will not remain passive in the face of any threat to its interests, and testing Iran’s will is a strategic error that will entail heavy costs for the United States and its entourage.”
The Revolutionary Guards — the ideological arm of Iran’s military — had said it seized the tankers “due to violations,” without elaborating further.
Greece said on Friday an Iranian navy helicopter landed on Greek-flagged vessel Delta Poseidon in international waters, and took the crew hostage. It said a similar incident took place on another Greek-flagged vessel near Iran, without naming the ship. Athens said both actions violated international law.
Nine Greeks are among the crews, the Greek foreign ministry said, without specifying the number of other sailors on board.
Iran’s action against the Greek-flagged tankers marks a sharp escalation in a diplomatic row that has raged since Greece seized a Russian-flagged oil tanker and its Iranian cargo last month.
Athens has linked the tanker seizure in Greece to sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February.
Iran’s foreign ministry demanded Friday that Greece release the vessel, saying the planned transfer of its cargo to the US was a “clear violation” of international law.
The US reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran in 2018, after then president Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear agreement between Tehran and major powers. Its once-lucrative oil exports are a major target.
(With AFP and Reuters)