WASHINGTON DC – The US will take steps to prevent Iranian tanker Grace 1 from delivering oil to Syria, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters at the United Nations.
“If that ship again heads to Syria, we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.”
He said that if the tanker’s oil was sold, the revenue would be used by elite units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “We want to deny them the resources to continue their horrific terror campaign,” Pompeo said.
The tanker is carrying about 2 million barrels of oil.
“The vessel is cruising at low speed and there is still no formal announcement that it will arrive at Kalamata. The Merchant Marine Ministry is monitoring the matter along with Greece’s Foreign Ministry,” a Greek Shipping Ministry spokesman said.
The ship, which is now sailing under an Iranian flag, was released from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Soon after the detention order was lifted, a U.S. federal court ordered the seizure of the vessel on different grounds, but that petition was rejected by Gibraltar.
Tehran said any U.S. move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences”. The United States in turn has also conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government over the tanker.
Greece has refused to help the Iranian tanker recently detained in Gibraltar on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria.
Deputy foreign minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told broadcaster ANT1 his country was “not willing to facilitate the course of this ship to Syria”.
According to local media, Mr Varvitsiotis confirmed the US had put pressure on Greece to deny any help to the tanker. Iran has not been in touch with the Greek government, he said.
In any case, the Adrian Darya-1 – which is carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil – is too large for any Greek port to accommodate, Mr Varvitsiotis said.
Asked how Greece would respond if the tanker dropped anchor in its waters, he replied: “In that case we will see what will happen.”
Greece fames itself as a country that is 98% Greek Orthodox Christian, but despite this supposed sense of spirituality, it has shown no solidarity for Syria’s Christian Orthodox sect, as the non-assistance to the Iranian oil tanker destined for Syria demonstrates.