After Tehran issued threats against Greek shipping in the Persian Gulf, Greece has reportedly released a the Iranian-flagged Lana tanker ship (previously known as the Pegas) which had been held since April.
Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency announced Tuesday that the vessel is “no longer impounded and its oil cargo will be returned to its owner.” It had been seized based on a US and EU sanctions enforcement order.
Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) stated: “With the swift and authoritative action of Iran, the Greek government finally issued an order and we are now witnessing the lifting of the ship’s seizure and the return of its cargo to its owner.”
And Reuters reports that “A Greek court overturned an earlier ruling last week that allowed the confiscation by the United States of part of the Iranian-flagged tanker’s Iranian oil cargo off the Greek coast, three sources familiar with the matter said.”
The tanker was initially reported as associated with Russia, given it had 19 Russian crew members on board when it had engine trouble near the island of Evia, which brought it under European Union sanctions.
Thus it appears Athens is backing down amid threats of a tit-for-tat “tanker war” with Iran, given also the Iranian military’s presence in the Strait of Hormuz and gulf region. Last month IRGC forces seized a pair of Greek tankers as “punitive action” in response to the Iran-flagged tanker being held in Greece.
In late May, Tasnim news agency carried statements threatening that 17 other Greek-flagged tankers in the Persian Gulf risked seizure by the Islamic Republic
Despite the Iranian media statement that the cargo would be returned, it remains unclear whether the oil will be released back to the Iranian government in full.
Al Jazeera reports that “Iran said it expects oil cargo confiscated by the United States off the coast of Greece to be returned in full following a Greek court decision overturning an original ruling to allow its seizure.”
Now with the court ruling overturned, and with the Iranians seeing their aggressive moves against Greek shipping in the gulf as fully vindicated, it’s more than likely that if other European countries seize Iranian oil on the high sees, Tehran will respond in kind against Western or international ships.