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By Renee Maltezou and Jonathan Saul
ATHENS/LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Iran has released two Greek-flagged tankers that it seized in the Gulf in May, the Greek shipping ministry said on Wednesday, ending a months-long diplomatic impasse which has strained relations between Athens and Tehran.
Iran detained the tankers in response to the confiscation of oil by the United States from an Iranian-flagged tanker off the Greek coast, fuelling bilateral tensions amid a broader deterioration in relations between Iran and the West.
“The final agreement was reached today in Tehran,” the ministry said in a statement, confirming an earlier Reuters report of a deal.
Ship tracking data showed the vessels, Delta Poseidon and Prudent Warrior, were underway from Iran.
Delta Tankers confirmed in a statement that its vessel was released on Wednesday and said the tanker was sailing to the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah for inspections before returning to Greece, its original destination.
“This is very good news and we are grateful to all those involved with securing this release. The crew are well and pleased to be on their way after many months,” the company said.
The Prudent Warrior’s destination was listed as the United Arab Emirates port of Khor Fakkan, according to Eikon data. Polembros shipping, which manages the vessel, has said that 17 out of 24 Greek and Filipino crew members have been replaced.
Merchant shipping remains prey to hazards in the Gulf.
A tanker was hit off the coast of Oman on Tuesday, sustaining minor damage to its hull, Israeli-controlled Eastern Pacific Shipping said on Wednesday. An Israeli official said Iran was responsible.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed separately on Wednesday it had released two Greek oil tankers and said that an Iranian-flagged tanker seized in Greece had also left Greek waters.
According to a memorandum signed by Iran and Greece, the parties will put in the necessary cooperation in order to improve maritime security, the ministry statement added.
Greek authorities in April impounded the Iranian-flagged tanker Lana, formerly Pegas, and its oil cargo near the coast of Evia, due to sanctions following legal action by the United States.
The United States later confiscated part of its oil cargo because of sanctions on Iran. The removal of oil from the Lana prompted Iranian forces in May to seize the two Greek tankers in the Gulf and sail them back to Iran. Tehran had warned of “punitive action” against Greece.
The Lana showed it was underway from Greece, with Istanbul listed as its destination, ship tracking data showed.
It was part of the agreement that all vessels leave on the same day, a Greek government source said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Jonathan Saul; editing by John Stonestreet, Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.
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