By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) - The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the Greek charge d’affaires in Tehran to protest the seizure of an Iranian-flagged ship in Greece’s territorial waters.
The ministry described the seizure as “an example of international banditry.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) issued a statement, describing the move as an “act of piracy” and a “violation of international standards.”
According to reports, the vessel was seized nearly seven weeks ago in Greece allegedly upon orders of the US Department of Justice after it thought the vessel was covered by sanctions on Russian assets.
Later, reports said it was held for mechanical defects, while Greek authorities said the vessel was smuggling sanctioned Iranian oil.
The PMO accused the Greek authorities of “hindering the Iranian vessel from sailing” and confiscating the cargo while urging the Greek government to fulfill its international obligations.
According to the Iranian maritime organization, the tanker operating under the flag of Iran was held by the Greek government on the coasts of that country, and the cargo onboard the vessel was “seized through a court order” and “in coordination” with the US government.
It said “no cooperation or assistance” had been provided to the vessel by Greek authorities, “while the military forces of that country have proceeded to discharge the cargo, calling it an “instance of piracy.”
The statement said the vessel had faced bad weather conditions and experienced several technical problems, “which led the vessel to call for assistance.”
Under international and technical regulations and standards, the statement added, the state with the nearest coastline to the vessel calling for assistance due to safety threats “should cooperate by guiding the vessel to a place of safety.”
The organization said US forces have begun to discharge the cargo onboard the vessel, and due to technical problems it could easily result in an oil spill and pollution of the marine environment.
“Thus, the Greek government is being repeatedly urged to fulfill its international obligations, and cease such perilous and high-risk actions that threaten the marine environment, especially within the Greek waters,” the statement noted.