Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken צילום: רויטרס

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday blasted Iran after it seized two Greek-flagged oil tankers in Gulf waters, AFP reported.

Blinken spoke to Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, and the two agreed "that Iran must immediately release the seized vessels, their cargoes, and their crews," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"Iran's continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights and freedoms are a threat to maritime security and the global economy," Price added.

"The United States stands with Greece, our key NATO Ally and partner in the face of this unjustified seizure."

Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized the Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, days after Athens confirmed it would deliver to Washington Iranian oil it had seized from a Russian tanker.

Tehran said Saturday the crews of the two tankers were in "good health" and not under arrest.

Greece has condemned Tehran's seizures as "tantamount to acts of piracy" and warned its citizens not to travel to Iran.

The Revolutionary Guards have several times in the past seized vessels in the Gulf. In late April, they seized a foreign vessel smuggling fuel in the Gulf and arrested its crew members.

Earlier that month, Iranian media reported the seizure of a boat carrying 250,000 liters of smuggled fuel and the arrest of its seven-member crew. Another boat with 11 crew on board was seized on April 9.

In the last few years there have been several close encounters between Iranian and American vessels in the Persian Gulf. The Revolutionary Guard typically patrols the shallower waters of the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz.

One such incident in May of 2020 included a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

The US military said at the time that 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels from the Guards navy came close to US Navy and coast guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that the incident had taken place, but also claimed that it was American forces who sparked the incident.

In April of 2020, a spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the Islamic Republic will respond “severely” if US vessels violate its territorial waters.