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Iran warns US on Venezuela fuel shipments

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-05-19 10:06
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia, Dec 30, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Washington's threat to block oil trade between its foes branded provocations

TEHERAN-Iran's foreign minister on Sunday warned the United States against deploying its navy in the Caribbean to disrupt Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday that "the illegal, dangerous and provocative US threats" against the Iranian tankers is a form of piracy and a big threat to international peace and security.

"The United States must stop acting as a bully at the international level and respect the rule of international laws, in particular the right to free shipping in free waters," he said in his letter.

Zarif noted that US President Donald Trump's administration would be responsible for the consequences of any "illegal move" in this regard, adding that Iran reserves the right to adopt appropriate and necessary measures in the face of such threats.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi summoned the Swiss ambassador, whose country represents US interests in Teheran, to voice Iran's strong protest at what he called US "provocations".

Araqchi urged the Swiss ambassador to convey "the Islamic Republic's serious warnings to the American officials against any possible threat posed by the US to the Iranian oil tankers".

Iran and Venezuela enjoy "completely legitimate and legal trade relations", Araqchi said.

Iran's Fars News reported on Saturday that it had received information that four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a "possible confrontation with Iran's tankers".

The US has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports by both Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers. Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves but analysts say that the sector operates below capacity.

On Saturday, Hamid Hosseini, the spokesman for the Iranian Association of Exports of Crude Products, said that the US would be practically unable to block shipments of fuel from Iran to Venezuela at a time when the two countries need to cooperate to mitigate the impacts of US sanctions on their energy sectors.

Washington is extremely angry about Iran's delivery of fuel to a location near its borders despite various sanctions it has imposed on Teheran's shipping and energy sectors, Hosseini was quoted as saying by Press TV.

"Gasoline shipment is not one that could be intercepted or attacked," he said. "It would be a remote possibility for the US to block the gasoline export shipment."

He described Iran's decision to ship gasoline to Venezuela as a right move that is meant to help Caracas tackle its fuel shortage.

He also said Iran should continue to export more of such shipments in the future to offset a reduction in domestic demand for the fuel, which has come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alleged payment

On Wednesday, Western media reported that "at least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for Venezuela ...which could help ease an acute scarcity of gasoline in the South American country".

Accordingly, the White House announced on Thursday the US was considering measures it could take in response to Iran's shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Earlier, Western reports also said that Venezuelan government officials had piled large amounts of gold, equal to about $500 million, on Teheran-bound jets in April as payment for Iran's assistance in reviving Venezuela's gasoline refineries.

On May 11, the Iranian ambassador to Caracas, Hojjatollah Soltani, denied that his country had received gold bars from Venezuela in return for its services to restore Venezuela's gasoline refinery operations.

The news reports claiming that Venezuela is raiding its gold vaults and handing tonnes of bars to Iran through recent Mahan Air flights are a "big lie" and amount to "baseless" claims, Soltani said.

Xinhua - Agencies

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