An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean to Greece after it was released off Gibraltar with Tehran saying any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences”.
Grace 1, renamed Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Monday the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and scheduled to arrive next Sunday.
The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar in July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a stand-off between Tehran and the West. It heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.
Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for its seizure, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
Gibraltar could not comply with the request because it was bound by EU law. Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds of links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is a designated a terrorist organisation.
Greek authorities had no immediate comment.
Iran said any US attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences”.
Asked whether the United States could renew its seizure request, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such an action and even talk of it would endanger shipping safety in open seas.”
“Iran 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 on state television.
Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.
The Adrian Darya, re-flagged to Iran after being de-listed by Panama, was fully laden and carrying about two million barrels of oil, Refinitiv data showed. The cargo is valued at tens of millions of dollars.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last May, while the European Union is still part of the accord, which allows Tehran to sell its oil.
Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and re-imposed US sanctions which place penalties on breaches even for non-US citizens and companies, including asset freezes and being cut off from the US financial system.
While EU regulations allow for companies and citizens in the bloc to trade with Iran, falling foul of US sanctions means most banks are unwilling to process even authorised transactions 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 taking office in July if the vessel enters Greek territorial waters.
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, would not be over until the tanker reached its destination.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 seized Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, two weeks after 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 semi-official ISNA news agency.
“This means the crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” Falahatpisheh said.
Mousavi said Tehran was waiting for a court decision on alleged maritime violations by 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”.
Iran denied its tanker was ever headed to Syria, a close ally of Tehran.