After US warns against aiding Iran tanker, Greece says it got no request to dock

After US warns against aiding Iran tanker, Greece says it got no request to dock

Athens officials say they are monitoring the oil ship Adrian Darya 1 after maritime tracker gives its destination as port of Kalamata

An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. (Johnny Bugeja/AFP)
An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. (Johnny Bugeja/AFP)

Athens has received no request from the recently released Iranian tanker Adrian Darya to dock in Greece, Merchant Marine Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said Tuesday, after a maritime tracker gave the ship’s “reported destination” as the Greek port of Kalamata.

“There is officially no request concerning the arrival of the Iranian tanker in a Greek port,” Plakiotakis told Greek media.

“We are following its progress and are working with the Greek foreign minister,” he said.

The website Marine Traffic placed the supertanker carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the Algerian port of Oran.

Gibraltar seized the Grace 1 on July 4 on suspicion it was transporting oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions, triggering a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London. Iran has repeatedly denied any violations.

Its Supreme Court ordered the tanker released last Thursday, with Iranian officials saying a new crew had arrived to pilot the vessel — now renamed the Adrian Darya — and its 2.1 million barrels of oil.

But on Friday, the US Justice Department filed a last-minute request to detain the ship, alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.

Gibraltar’s government rejected that request, saying it could not seek a court order to detain the supertanker because US sanctions against Iran were not applicable in the European Union.

Iranian government officials have yet to publicly acknowledge the ship’s next destination, or where it will discharge its cargo of crude oil. Iran has denied it was ever headed for Syria.

The tanker’s release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago. The decision re-imposed sanctions on Iran, stopping billions of dollars in business deals, largely halting the sale of Iran’s crude oil internationally and sharply depreciating Iran’s currency, the rial.

The US Department of State reiterated its position Monday that the Adrian Darya 1 was “transporting illicit oil to fuel the Iranian regime’s and Syrian regime’s campaigns of terror and oppression,” and it said that companies and mariners who assist it could be considered to be providing material support to a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“We have conveyed our strong position to the Greek government on the matter, as well as all ports in the Mediterranean that should be forewarned about facilitating this vessel,” it said.

Ioannis Plakiotakis (Screen capture: YouTube)

Port authorities in Kalamata, a port in Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, have not confirmed Marine Traffic’s information.

An Iranian port authority said the tanker was in international waters, but its destination remained unclear, as did the fate of its cargo.

The Gibraltar authorities have yet to confirm the ship’s departure.

The voyage to Kalamata would take around five days, port authorities there said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country was being discreet about the tanker’s destination due to sanctions by the US, which he said “illegally tries to bully others from purchasing our oil.”

The threat of punitive measures by the US for buying Iranian oil has discouraged many countries from purchasing it, though the oil itself is not subject to any UN or international sanctions.

Zarif said the tanker’s seizure “was not based on any law,” speaking in English to reporters in Helsinki, Finland.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif at a joint press conference with his Finish counterpart in Helsinki, Finland, on August 19, 2019. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Gibraltar’s decision “very unfortunate,” in an implicit rebuke to ally Britain.

Tehran for its part said it has warned Washington against making another attempt to seize the ship, saying such a move would have “grave consequences.”

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