Iran warns US not to interfere with Venezuela oil shipment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of retaliatory measures against the US if Washington caused problems for tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela. (Iranian Presidency via AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2020

Iran warns US not to interfere with Venezuela oil shipment

  • Five Iranian tankers now on the high seas are expected to start arriving in Venezuela in the coming days

TEHRAN: Iran’s president on Saturday warned the United States not to interfere with a shipment of oil bound for Venezuela after the South American nation said it would provide an armed escort for the tankers.

In a statement posted on his website, Hassan Rouhani said the United States had created “unacceptable conditions” in different parts of the world, but that Iran would “by no means” be the one to initiate conflict.

“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face any problems caused by the Americans, they will face problems as well,” he added. “We hope the Americans will not make a mistake.”

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The five Iranian tankers now on the high seas are expected to start arriving in Venezuela in the coming days. They are carrying gasoline to alleviate severe fuel shortages in the country that have caused days-long lines at service stations, even in the capital, Caracas.

Venezuela said Wednesday that planes and ships from the nation’s armed forces will escort the tankers in case of any US aggression.

President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after he withdrew the US from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The administration has ramped up sanctions on Venezuela to try to force President Nicolás Maduro from power.

A force of US vessels, including Navy destroyers and other combat ships, patrol the Caribbean on what US officials call a drug interdiction mission. Venezuelan officials paint them as a threat, but US officials have not announced any plans to intercept the Iranian tankers.


‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

Updated 31 May 2020

‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

  • Turkey claims an agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to create a “fait accompli” over rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling off the coast of Libya, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Ankara’s announcement that it intends to activate last year’s maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli has brought simmering tensions to the boil.   

Turkey claims the agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between its southern coast and Libya’s northeastern coast. However, Greece, Cyprus and the EU say the deal is illegal. Turkey may also face EU sanctions over drilling in Cypriot territorial waters.

Ankara has not said exactly where it will drill, but experts told Arab News they expect exploration activities to begin off Tripoli in the short term, and then near to the coastal city of Sirte.

“From a tactical point of view, Turkey may test the scenario of a crisis with Athens where escalation takes place and then, in the context of de-escalation, the two countries would have to discuss and negotiate their positions,” said Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and co-founder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said: “If we take Turkish operations off the Cypriot coast as an indicator, operations off the Libyan coast might start off on the less provocative part of the spectrum and grow bolder with time toward the more provocative part of the spectrum.

“The objective is to demonstrate a resolute determination in order to extract concessions or, at the very least, to impose itself as a player to reckon with.”