Responding to U.S. Threats, Greece Refuses to Aid Iranian Tanker

United States has issued a warrant to seize the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which it designates as a terrorist organization

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A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 as it sits anchored in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019.
A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 as it sits anchored in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019.Credit: JON NAZCA / Reuters

Greece will not facilitate Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 sailing in the Mediterranean to deliver oil to Syria, the country's deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"We want to send a message that we are not willing to facilitate the course of this ship to Syria," Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told Greece's ANT1 television. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday that the United States would take every action it could to prevent the Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of U.S. sanctions.

Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria.

Ship-tracking website shows that the Adrian Darya 1, previously Grace 1, that had been detained in Gibraltar for a month, is still south of Spain, heading east at a very slow speed.

The United States has issued a warrant to seize the tanker on the grounds that it had links to the Revolutionary Guards C (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organization.

Pompeo said anyone who "touches," supports or allows an Iranian tanker carrying crude oil to dock risks U.S. sanctions.

He told reporters that if an Iranian supertanker that left Gibraltar on Sunday again heads to Syria, "we'll take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that."

Pompeo said the U.S. doesn't want crude oil to go to Syria because it will be "off-loaded, sold, used by the Quds force, an organization that has killed countless Americans and people all across the world."

He said he believes this rationale "is shared by the entire world."

Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency said on Wednesday the tanker  is currently leased to an Iranian shipping company.

The Iranian vessel was detained for a month for allegedly attempting to violate European Union sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected U.S. attempts to seize the tanker.

"It is worth noting that the Grace 1 vessel, renamed Adrian Darya after the seizure, is a Korean-made oil tanker owned by Russia which is currently leased to the Revolutionary Guards," ILNA said, without citing a source.

The comment came in an ILNA interview with the head of the Revolutionary Guards' navy, Alireza Tangsiri.

"The Adrian Darya vessel needs no escort," Tangsiri told ILNA, in an apparent show of defiance.

Separately, Iran said on Wednesday that an Iranian oil tanker has broken down in the Red Sea but the crew are safe and repairs are underway.

The report identified the disabled tanker as HELM. A vessel with the same name is on a list of individuals, companies and vessels that are subject to U.S. sanctions, according to the U.S. Treasury's website.