Iran's navy has seized two Greek oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf, officials from both sides said on Friday.
“The Revolutionary Guards Navy today seized two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters,” said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in a statement quoted by state news agency IRNA.
It gave no further details or say what the alleged violations were.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Iranian authorities “violently took over” the two ships in an “act of piracy”.
Asked about the Iranian claim, Commander Timothy Hawkins of the US Navy’s Middle East-based 5th Fleet told AP that “this is what we are tracking”, but declined to comment further.
The reason for the seizure of the Delta Poseidon and Prudent Warrior was not given in the IRGC statement.
Shipping news site Lloyds List said the ships are carrying oil taken on board at the southern Iraqi port of Basra. Prudent Warrior's owner Polembros Shipping said that it had lost communication with the ship and its 24 crew members.
Iran had threatened to take “punitive action” earlier on Friday, over Athens being involved in the US seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Greek waters.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it made strong representations to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Arabian Gulf.
“These acts effectively amount to acts of piracy,” the ministry said.
It called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, and said these acts would have “particularly negative consequences” in bilateral relations and in Iran’s relations with the EU, of which Greece is a member.
The ministry said that earlier Friday, an Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters, about 37 kilometres off the coast of Iran.
“Armed men then took the crew captive,” it said, adding that two Greek nationals were among the crew.
“A similar incident has been reported on another Greek-flagged vessel, that was carrying seven Greek citizens, close to the coast of Iran,” the ministry said.
Tehran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Iran, who represents US interests in the country, on Friday to complain about the seizure of the Iranian-flagged Pegas.
The previously Russia-flagged ship was renamed Lana on March 1, seemingly in an effort to conceal its identity.
It was among five ships identified by US authorities as controlled by Russian Promsvyazbank, which came under sanctions at the outbreak of the Ukraine war.
Greek authorities last month impounded the ship and its 19 Russian crew members near the coast of the southern island of Evia, due to EU sanctions.
The 115,000 tonnes of oil the ship contained was sent to the US on Thursday, Reuters reported.
It was unclear whether the cargo was impounded because it was Iranian oil or due to the sanctions on the tanker over its Russian links.
Iran and Russia face separate US sanctions.
The Pegas was later released because of confusion about the sanctions over its owners.