OPEC chief: Eliminating Iranian oil from market impossible
Turkey says cannot quickly abandon Iranian crude
Iran will respond if other OPEC members threaten its interests, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Thursday amid US efforts to bring Iranian crude sales to zero with the help of Tehran’s regional rivals.
The United States has demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by the start of May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers that had allowed OPEC member Iran’s eight top customers, most of them in Asia, to import limited volumes.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have welcomed the US move to end all Iran sanction waivers and have said they are ready to meet oil consumers’ demand by replacing supplies from Tehran.
After a meeting with OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo in Tehran, Zanganeh warned that OPEC might “collapse” because of “unilateral actions” by some members, in an obvious reference to Saudi Arabia.
"I told Barkindo that OPEC is threatened by the unilateralism of some of its members and that it's possible that the organization may collapse," said Zanganeh.
“Iran is a member of OPEC because of its interests, and if other members of OPEC seek to threaten Iran or endanger its interests, Iran will not remain silent,” Zanganeh said.
‘No need to repeat’
Earlier in the day, Barkindo said at an oil and gas exhibition in the Iranian capital that “OPEC tries to depoliticize oil”, Iran’s Oil Ministry reported on Twitter.
“I have told my colleagues at OPEC that you must leave your passports home when coming to this organization,” Barkindo said.
Asked by a reporter if it was technically possible to implement US sanctions against Tehran, Barkindo said: “There is no need to repeat it. It is impossible to eliminate Iranian oil from the market.”
Echoing Zanganeh’s comments, Barkindo said “We have faced troubles in the OPEC in the last 60 years, but we have resolved them by unity.”
“What is happening in Iran, Venezuela or Libya has an impact on all the market and the energy sector.”
Barkindo said that the organization seeks to reach decisions collectively.
"We have seen numerous times in the past how one-sided decisions made by state-members have failed to be effectual. The same will happen again this time," said the OPEC chief.
Barkindo said OPEC is determined to avoid a global "energy crisis" as some of its members are facing international sanctions and others struggling with unrest.
"As an organization, we will remain focused on our goal of avoiding an energy crisis that may affect the global economy," Barkindo said.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will pursue this policy "despite current troubles in several of its member countries," he said.
Venezuela, another OPEC member, is also facing sweeping US sanctions and in the throes of political troubles while fighting rages between rival forces for control Tripoli, capital of oil-rich Libya.
OPEC is "committed to stay united" and "not slip back into the chaos" it has faced in recent years, Barkindo said.
Reliance on Iran oil
Meanwhile, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday his country will be unable to diversify oil imports quickly after the United States ended waivers on purchases from Iran.
Turkey’s statement follows comments by China, which said last month it opposed “long-armed jurisdictions implemented by the United States” and would continue “rational and legal” cooperation with Iran.
Turkey and China are the only two countries so far to have expressed a desire to continue large purchases of Iranian crude. Other major buyers, such as India, Japan and South Korea, have signaled they would bow to US pressure.
Turkey has reduced its heavy reliance on Iranian crude in the past year, but Cavusoglu said its refineries were not suited to handling oil from some other countries.
“It does not seem possible for us to diversify the sources of the oil we import in a short time,” he told a news conference, adding that Washington should review its decision.
“We have to renew the technology of our refineries when we buy oil from third countries. That would mean the refineries remaining shut for some time. This, of course, has a cost.”
India said on Thursday it was ready to deal with the impact of US sanctions against Iran and would get extra supplies from other oil producers.
Turkish imports from Iran have dropped gradually since May 2018, when the United States first mentioned possible sanctions.
Turkey, which is almost completely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs, imported 912,000 tons of oil per month on average from Iran until May 2018, making up 47 percent of its total oil requirements.
In the four months after the imposition of sanctions in November, Turkey imported an average of 209,000 tons of oil per month from Iran, or 12 percent of its needs, according to Reuters calculations based on regulatory data.
Turkey last week said it was working to convince Washington to allow oil refiner Tupras to continue crude imports from Iran.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.