The energy war between Iran and the European Union (EU) escalated on Sunday with Tehran refusing to load an oil tanker from Greece, a weak link among the troubled eurozone countries.
Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) is reporting that a Greek tanker returned home empty, after Iranian authorities refused to load it with crude.
The move, if it escalates into a full-fledged ban, could further deepen Greece's economic woes, but more importantly impose enormous strain on the troubled eurozone collective.
On February 16, Iran stopped oil exports to British and French firms in line with the decision to end crude exports to six European states in response to sanctions imposed on the country's energy sector, Iran's semi-official Press TV reported. The announcement appears to have severely impacted oil prices, which recently crossed the $122-a-barrel mark.
According to FNA, Greece would be hit hard by the Iranian move as its traditional oil suppliers, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, have stopped trading with Athens as a precautionary measure, apprehending a payment default in the future.
Iran and the EU are battling each other on the economic front after Foreign Ministers of the grouping decided on January 23 to ban oil imports from Tehran, and froze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank. In its riposte, Iran decided not to wait for a July 1 deadline that the EU had set for implementing its decision. Soon after, Iran announced that it was immediately banning oil exports to Britain and France, and hinted that Asian markets could readily absorb the surplus.
The EU's decision followed the lead taken by the United States, which on New Year's eve announced that it was targeting Iran's energy and financial sectors. It also attacked Iran's economic core by threatening to punish other countries, which chose to deal with Iran's energy and financial domains. On February 2, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee authorised the U.S. government to ban foreign companies that buy oil from the National Iranian oil Company (NIOC) or use tankers of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), to ship their oil.
Press TV is reporting that Iran had announced on February 21 that will continue exporting oil to the EU only if its member countries issue a guarantee to pay the price and sign medium- and long-term oil purchase contracts with Tehran.