0706 GMT February 25, 2020
Iran’s Ambassador in Brasilia Seyyed Ali Saghaeyan, told Brazilian officials that his country could easily find new suppliers of corn, soybeans and meat if the South American country refuses to permit the refueling of the vessels, Bloomberg on Wednesday.
Brazil exports around $2 billion to Iran a year, mostly commodities like corn, meat and sugar. Tehran buys one third of all Brazil’s corn exports.
“I told the Brazilians that they should solve the issue, not the Iranians,” Saghaeyan said in a rare interview at the Iranian Embassy in Brasilia. “If it’s not solved, the authorities in Tehran may want to take some decision because this is a free market and other countries are available.”
State-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA refuses to supply the ships – which have been floating for over a month off the port of Paranagua, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Sao Paulo – due to the risk of US sanctions.
Petrobras has said it was a business decision and other companies could sell fuel to the vessels. Without the fuel, the ships carrying Brazilian corn are unable to return to Iran.
Petrobras has said the ships, Bavand and Termeh, which had brought urea to Brazil, appeared on a list of US sanctions.
While Brazil has a long history of good relations with Iran, President Jair Bolsonaro’s commitment to ripping up the country’s traditional foreign policy has put those ties in doubt.
As a strong supporter of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro warned exporters of the risk of trading with Iran, adding that Brazil sides with the US on its policy toward the Middle East country.
“I, particularly, am getting close to Trump, I was received twice by him. It is the No. 1 economy in the world, our second-largest market, and now Brazil has its arms open to do deals and partnerships,” Bolsonaro said.
“We are aligned to their policies. So we do what we have to.”
To resolve the standoff, Iran is considering sending fuel to the stranded ships, although this option would take longer and prove costly, Saghaeyan said.
“Independent and big countries like Brazil and Iran should work together without interference from any third part or country,” he added.
Saghaeyan has requested a meeting with Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, and is expecting to receive an answer.
In a statement the Brazilian foreign office said that it would follow legal guidance on the issue.