The United States seized a shipment of Iranian oil held aboard a Russian-operated ship near Greece. and will ship the cargo to North America aboard another vessel, three sources familiar with the matter said.
The Iranian flag ship, the Pegas, was one of the five ships designated by Washington on February 22 – two days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine – for the sanctions imposed on Promsvyazbank, a bank considered essential for the defense sector. From Russia.
The Russian owner of the vessel, Transmorflot, was subsequently sanctioned on May 8. The tanker, renamed Lana on March 1 and flying the Iranian flag since May 1, has remained near Greek waters ever since. Previously it had a Russian flag.
A Greek Transportation Ministry source said on Thursday that the US Justice Department had “informed Greece that the ship’s cargo is Iranian oil.”
“The cargo has been transferred to another ship that was contracted by the United States,” the source added, without elaborating.
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering ring for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.even as Washington tries to revive a nuclear deal with Iran.
The seizure was confirmed by another Western source familiar with the matter, who added that the cargo was transferred to the Liberian-flagged tanker Ice Energy, operated by the Greek shipping company Dynacom.
A Dynacom source confirmed that “the transfer of the oil was in progress from the vessel to Dynacom’s Ice Energy, which then it will sail to the United States.”
The Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that its Foreign Ministry summoned the chargé d’affaires of the Greek embassy in Tehran after the seizure of cargo from a ship that was “under the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Greek waters and was informed the resounding objections” of the Iranian regime.
According to IRNA, Iran’s Port and Maritime Organization said the tanker had sought refuge off the Greek coast after experiencing technical problems and bad weather, adding that the seizure of its cargo was “a clear example of piracy.”
The Ice Energy reported its position as anchored near the southern Greek island of Evia on Thursday, vessel tracking data on Eikon showed.
In 2020, Washington seized four shipments of Iranian fuel aboard foreign ships bound for Venezuela and transferred them, with the help of undisclosed foreign partners, to two other vessels that then sailed to the United States.
These seizures came after a US district court issued an order for the shipments in a civil forfeiture case.
Greek authorities last month seized the Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, off the coast of the island of Euboea. They said the ship was seized as part of EU sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine invasion. However, the vessel was later released due to confusion over the penalties imposed on the owners of it.
The US defense group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which monitors Iran-related oil tanker traffic, said the Pegas had loaded some 700,000 barrels of crude from the Iranian island of Sirri on August 19, 2021.
Before this load, the Pegas transported more than 3 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2021, of which more than 2.6 million ended up in Chinaaccording to the UANI analysis.
The administration of President Joe Biden has been engaging in indirect talks to revive a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned, under which world powers had lifted international financial sanctions on Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its program. nuclear.
Though talks appeared close to resuscitating the deal in March, they stalled over last-minute Russian demands and the possibility that Washington might remove the Revolutionary Guards from its terrorism list.
On Wednesday, Washington’s envoy to Iran said the chances of reviving the nuclear deal were uncertain at best, and that Washington was willing to tighten sanctions against Iran.
(With information from Reuters)
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