The ships were taken in retaliation for Greece last month impounding, at the request of the United States, an Iranian oil tanker, according to Iranian news reports.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Friday that its naval forces in the Persian Gulf had seized two oil tankers belonging to Greece.
The ships were seized in retaliation for Greece impounding an oil tanker in April carrying Iranian oil near its shore, with the seizure carried out at the request of the United States, according to reports in two semiofficial Iranian news agencies, Tasnim and Fars News, which are affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
The cargo of Iranian oil was then handed over to the United States for being in violation of American sanctions that ban Iran from selling its oil, according to the news agencies, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Iran’s action was “tantamount to acts of piracy” and would have a negative impact on Iran-Greece relations as well as Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member. It advised its citizens not to travel to Iran.
An Iranian navy helicopter landed on a vessel, the Delta Poseidon, which was sailing in the Persian Gulf and flying with the Greek flag, and armed men “captured the ship’s crew,” including two Greek citizens, according to Greece’s foreign ministry.
Another Greek-flagged ship that was close to Iran’s coast was also seized in a similar manner and seven Greek citizens were onboard, the ministry said in a statement. Iranian media identified the second vessel as the Prudent Warrior and said it had recently anchored in Basra, Iraq, and was carrying Iraqi oil.
A marine tracking website, MarineTraffic.com, said both vessels had loaded their oil cargo at the port in Basra.
Iranian media said the two vessels had an estimated combined capacity to carry 1.8 million barrels of oil and that their cargo was now in possession of Iran.
The Tasnim news agency warned that the 17 other Greek-flagged tankers currently afloat in the Persian Gulf would be seized by Iran if its oil and tanker taken by Greece last month were not returned.
Iran has a history of tit-for-tat seizing of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in response to ships carrying its oil being stopped or confiscated. But the incident on Friday marked the first time in months that a foreign-flagged vessel was targeted by Iran.