TEHRAN -- Iran said it expects oil cargo stolen 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.
The case arose when Greece in April illegally seized on U.S. orders the Iranian-flagged Lana with 19 Russian crew members on board near the island of Evia.
The U.S. in May confiscated part of the Iranian oil onboard, transferring it to another ship, following the initial Greek court ruling.
“Following intensive follow-up, the Greek Court of Appeals will overturn the initial court ruling on the confiscation of Iranian oil and … the entire oil shipment will be returned,” Iranian Ambassador Ahmad Naderi said.
“The issue remains the subject of intense consultations between the two countries to ensure full implementation of the ruling,” he added on the embassy’s Twitter account.
Greek media reported that the Lana was believed to be carrying more than 100,000 tonnes of Iranian crude.
The confiscation of the cargo prompted an angry response from Iran, with Iranian forces last month seizing two Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens.
President Ebrahim Raisi said on Thursday that Iran had shown it would stand up to “bullies”.
“Like bullies, they stole our ship. Iran proved that the era of ‘hit and runs’ is over, and we seized two of their ships. How many times do you want to test the Iranian nation?” Raisi said.
Asked if the latest judicial decision could open the way for the release of the two Greek tankers and their crews, Greek government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said Greece’s justice system was independent.
“First of all, since the first moment, we have not connected the two incidents... Secondly, justice in our country has proven that it operates independently,” he told reporters.
In 2019, Iran impounded a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz two weeks after British forces stole an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Both vessels were later released.
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) said Thursday the change in Greece’s behavior proves that retaliatory measure is the best way to protect the country against bullying.
“The change in Greece’s behavior following Iran’s proportionate and powerful reaction to illegal seizure of its tanker on the U.S.’ order, along with scores of other experiences, proves that the sole way to defend the country’s rights in the face of bullying, both in the case of JCPOA and in the [International Atomic Energy] Agency is retaliatory measure,” Ali Shamkhani said.
The Iranian embassy in Athens emphasized that preserving the Iranian nation’s rights is a red line.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry late last month summoned the Greek chargé d’affaires to protest the seizure of the Iranian-flagged vessel and confiscation of its crude cargo.
The ministry official condemned Greece’s “unacceptable” surrender to “illegal” U.S. pressures and said the “seizure of the cargo of the ship” with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran was “an example of international piracy”.