Greece refuses to assist Iranian tanker sought by US

The statement comes after Pompeo threatens to sanction countries that allow the vessel to drop anchor

Photo: AFP

Greece said on Wednesday it won't endanger its relations with the United States by aiding the Iranian oil tanker sought by the US but released by Gibraltar that's currently in the Mediterranean Sea. The statement comes after the ship's destination was declared to be the southern Greek port of Kalamata, where a vessel of that size and draught would only be able to anchor at least half a mile offshore.

In an interview with ANT1 TV on Wednesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis however insisted the country is not willing to facilitate the transfer of oil to Syria and harm its relations with Washington, which claim the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1 is tied to a sanctioned Iranian organisation, as well. Varvitsiotis also added that the the 330-meter (1,000-foot) tanker is too big anyway to enter the Kalamata port, where tracking data suggest it is headed.

Nevertheless "the vessel can still enter Greek waters or anchor offshore, in which case Athens will "see" what it will do", Varvitsiotis underlined.

The foreign ministry statement came shortly after on Tuesday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the US will take every action it can to prevent the tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. Furthermore, Washington has linked the supertanker to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

While the EU has not followed the US in pronouncing the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation, US foreign secretary Pompeo warned on Wednesday that “anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States.” And Greece is anxious not to endanger its strategic ties with Washington, to which it looks for support against neighbouring Turkey's oil and gas prospecting ventures off Greece's Aegean Sea islands and Cyprus, or with Israel.

The Adrian Darya 1 has a cargo of 2,1 million barrels of crude oil. The vessel was taken over by British Royal Marines back in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. But it was released from the six-week detention on Sunday evening after Gibraltar's court accepted Iranian assurances that the ship was not bound to Syria.

The US Department of Justice then issued a warrant to seize the vessel on Sunday evening, but the court ruled that Gibraltar is not bound by US oil export sanction. Previously named Grace 1, the ship is now in the waters off Algeria and expected to reach Kalamata on 26 August, according to ship tracking service MarineTraffic.

Greek authorities say they have received no official notification of where the ship is heading, or any request for it to moor at Kalamata.

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