Oil minister: US making mistake by politicizing oil
EU, China condemn US sanctions on Iran
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday lashed out at the United States for “escalating economic terrorism” against Iran by refusing to renew waivers on oil import sanctions.
Zarif wrote on his twitter account that the move "exposes panic & desperation of US regime—and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators”.
He reminded US President Donald Trump that “Inheritors of ancient Persian civilization don't base strategy on "advice" of foreigners—let alone Americans”.
The United States on Monday demanded that importers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s biggest buyers – Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China and India – to continue importing limited volumes.
Oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest level since November after the US announcement.
The sanctions could potentially remove up to 1.2 million barrels of oil per day from international markets, according to industry experts. However, that number will likely be lower, depending on how countries respond and just how much oil Iran continues to export.
US dream won’t come true
Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in a parliamentary session on Tuesday that the US has made a bad mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon.
“America has made a bad mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon in the fragile state of the market,” Zanganeh said.
Zanganeh added that the United States will not be able to reduce Iran’s oil sales to zero.
“America’s dream to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero will not come true,” he said adding that “with all our power, we will work toward breaking America’s sanctions.”
Blow to Iran nuclear deal
A European Commission spokesperson on Tuesday warned that the decision to intensify its oil embargo against Iran would further undermine the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic.
The move "risks undermining the implementation" of the nuclear deal, said EU Foreign Policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
The EU will "continue to abide by (the deal) as long as Iran continues with full and effective implementation," she added.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal if Washington tightens its sanctions aimed at Iranian oil exports.
The sanctions were imposed after Trump decided unilaterally to withdraw the US from the deal. But Iran and the other countries continue to abide by the agreement, which places strict limits on Iran's nuclear program.
China warned Tuesday that the US decision will "intensify turmoil" in the Middle East and in the international energy market.
“The decision from the US will contribute to volatility in the Middle East and in the international energy market. We urge the United States to take a responsible attitude and play a constructive role, not the opposite,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
Geng said China has formally complained to the US over the move, adding another fault line to already complicated Beijing-Washington ties.
“China has already lodged representations with the US side about this.”
"China firmly opposes the US implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction," he said.
China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of 29.27 million tons, or about 585,400 barrels a day, roughly six percent of China’s total oil imports, according to customs data.
The “normal” energy cooperation China and other countries have with Iran within the framework of international law is lawful and reasonable, and should be respected, he added.
“China urges the US side to earnestly respect China’s interests and concerns and not take any wrong actions that harm China’s interests.”
China will continue to work to protect the legitimate rights of Chinese firms, Geng said.
Beijing and Tehran have long had close relations, especially in the energy sector.
Some of China’s refineries are configured to process the Iranian crude and refinery officials say Iranian oil typically yields better margins compared to similar grades from rival suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.
State-owned Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum Corp both produce oil in Iran, having spent billions of dollars on oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan. They have been sending the oil from the fields to China.
China and the United States are currently working to end a bitter trade war, but have numerous other areas of disagreement.
South Korean delegation to US
Two South Korean government officials said on Tuesday a delegation will head to Washington as early as this week for talks with US officials after the United States announced plans to end all Iran sanction waivers.
South Korea, a major buyer of Iranian oil, bought limited amounts of Iranian oil, mainly condensate — an ultra-light form of crude oil used for petrochemical products.
The Foreign Ministry said on Monday Seoul would make every effort to convey its position until next month’s deadline when the United States said it will not grant any waivers on imports of Iranian oil beyond May 1.
The delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Yoon Kang-hyun will seek more details on the US decision, said the officials who declined to be named.
“As we have some time until the May deadline, we’re planning to try to see if we can persuade the US government to extend waivers,” one official said.
Trade Ministry officials met with petrochemical producers in Seoul on Tuesday to weigh the potential impact of the US decision and find ways to minimize the impact by sourcing oil imports from elsewhere.
Limited impact on Japan
Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Hiroshige Seko said on Tuesday that Tokyo expects a limited impact from the US decision not to renew sanctions waivers.
Speaking at a regular press conference, Seko told reporters the government did not see any need to tap national oil reserves following the US move.
Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest oil consumer, has been reducing its reliance on Iranian crude supplies. Iran now accounts for about three percent of purchases, Seko said.
“We will closely watch international oil markets and exchange views with Japanese companies involved in crude imports and may consider taking necessary measures,” he said, declining to give details.
Japanese refineries earlier put a halt on imports of Iranian oil after buying 15.3 million barrels between January and March ahead of the expiry of their sanctions waiver, according to industry sources and data on Refinitiv Eikon.
The White House said it was working with top oil exporters Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ensure the market was “adequately supplied”.
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) of the UAE is in Tokyo for talks with Seko, METI said. The visit was planned before the US announcement, an official in the Japanese ministry said.
Khaled al-Fadhel, the Kuwaiti oil minister, is also in Tokyo, the METI official said.
Al-Jaber and al-Fadhel will hold talks with Seko separately but there are no plans to discuss alternative supplies to Iranian crude at the meetings, the official said.
Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this story.