Iran sets oil term to stay in N-deal
Iran insists on exporting at least 1.5 million barrels per day of oil, triple May’s expected levels under US sanctions, as a condition for staying in an international nuclear deal, sources with knowledge of Iran-European Union talks said.
The figure was communicated in recent meetings between Iranian and Western officials, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif but has not been set down in writing, four European diplomatic sources said.
The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after US President Donald Trump last spring unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
In an attempt to reduce Iran’s crude exports to zero, Washington at the beginning of May ended waivers that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil to continue their imports for six months.
The sanctions have already more than halved Iranian oil exports to 1 million bpd or less, from a peak of 2.8 million bpd last year. Exports could drop to as low as 500,000 bpd from May, an Iranian official said this month.
Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — a major oil-shipping route — and disrupt crude shipments from neighboring countries if the US succeeds in forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year set out a series of conditions for European powers if they wanted Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, including continued purchases of Iranian oil.
Khamenei did not specify which minimum level of oil sales Iran would accept to stick with the deal or keep the Strait open.
According to a EU official, the Iranians have not been specific but they wanted to ensure production returned to pre-sanctions levels. Other sources said Iran’s demand seemed to be in a general range of 1.5 million to 2 million bpd.
“Zarif said specifically that they want to sell 2 million barrels of oil (per day), basically the level Iran was exporting before Trump withdrew from the deal,” said a source present at the New York meeting in which the minister made the statement.
“But I don’t think it is a serious demand. It isn’t possible and the Iranians know it isn’t possible.”
Zarif also said during the same visit to New York in April that Iran could only sell 500,000 to 700,000 bpd of oil.
An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying yesterday: “Iran’s demands have been clearly stated in our president’s letter on May 8 to the leaders of the remaining countries in the JCPOA (nuclear deal).”
“Paying attention to these reports, which are based on incomplete and imprecise conjectures, is not constructive and can undermine the conditions needed for serious diplomacy,” spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said last week that for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, Iranian oil sales should reach their pre-sanctions level or at least “start the process of returning” to such a level.
He also said another Iranian condition was to have full access to oil-export revenues and to spend them as it pleased, not only on food and medicine as proposed by EU countries.