ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece said on Tuesday it had not had a request for an oil tanker at the center of a row between Iran and the United States to dock at one of its ports, as Washington warned Greece against helping the vessel.
A crew member raises the Iranian flag 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/Jon Nazca
The Adrian Darya 1 – formerly the Grace 1 – left Gibraltar on Aug 18. Ship-tracking data on Tuesday showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata on the southern coast of the Peloponnese and was scheduled to arrive on Aug. 26.
“The vessel is cruising at low speed and there is still no formal announcement that it will arrive at Kalamata. The Merchant Marine Ministry is monitoring the matter along with Greece’s Foreign Ministry,” a Shipping Ministry spokesman said.
The ship, which is now sailing under an Iranian flag, was released from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Soon after the detention order was lifted, a U.S. federal court ordered the seizure of the vessel on different grounds, but that petition was rejected by Gibraltar.
Tehran said any U.S. move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences”. The United States in turn has also conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government over the tanker, which is carrying about 2 million barrels of oil.
Washington wants the tanker detained on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which it has designated a terrorist organization.
The European Union, of which Greece is a member, bans oil sales to Syria and the United States has sanctions on Iranian oil sales.
The fate of the Adrian Darya 1 could also have a bearing on that of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz leading into the Gulf two weeks after British Royal Marine commandos seized what was then known as the Grace 1.
Speculation has mounted that the Stena Impero could be freed once the Adrian Darya 1 had set sail, although Iranian officials have denied any link between the two cases.
Deputy transport minister Mohammad Rastad said the case of Stena Impero had been submitted to a court in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported, without giving a date when it would be heard.
The handling of the Adrian Darya 1 will be a major foreign policy test for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a pro-Western conservative elected in July.
Any efforts to assist the tanker could be construed as providing material support to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, which has immigration and potential criminal consequences, a U.S. State Department official said.
A Greek diplomatic source cited by the state Athens News Agency said the country was in communication with the United States on the matter, but did not say what Greece would do.
“(The U.S.) position on the specific issue is known and has been communicated not only to Greece but other states and ports in the Mediterranean,” the source said.
It is standard practice for a vessel to give notice 48 hours before docking at a port, Greek officials said.
It was not clear where the ship might head if Greece refused it permission to dock.
Cyprus, further east, has bitter experience from seizing Iranian products destined for Syria; munitions it confiscated exploded in 2011, causing the island’s worst peace-time disaster.
Reporting by Michele Kambas, George Georgiopoulos and Dubai newsroom; Editing by John Stonestreet and Alison Williams