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Russia sees ‘individual solution' for Iran on oil freeze

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This undated photo shows Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak talking to reporters in Moscow.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak says it is likely to find an “individual solution” for Iran which has dismissed freezing oil production at January levels.

Major producers Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed last month to freeze their output provided that other oil exporters participated in the plan. Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh dismissed the idea “a joke.”

Russia’s deal with Saudi Arabia surprised Iran which has been ramping up production to claw back market share after the lifting of sanctions.

Novak said on Tuesday the agreement to freeze production could be effective even without Iran’s participation. He said countries that have already agreed to a freeze represent “almost 75%” of the total output of oil exporting nations.

“Even without Iran, 75% is already a level which will allow this agreement to be effective,” he told journalists in Moscow after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Novak also lent weight to Iran’s position.

“Iran today is in a rather special situation, in that Iran is currently at the very lowest point of their production, so in my opinion it may be possible to find an individual, separate solution for Iran,” he said.

Omani and Nigerian oil ministers have also said Iran must be given a way out to regain its lost market share due to sanctions.

Iran is seeking to increase output by 1 million barrels a day this year after sanctions on its oil industry were lifted last month.

Saudi Arabia, which pumped 10.2 million barrels daily last month, as well as Russia, Qatar and Venezuela proposed the freeze during an instant meeting in Doha. 

Novak said, “Many countries have already spoken in support of this initiative.”  

“I think that next we will agree with other OPEC and non-OPEC countries to meet in March and to consider the possibility of taking a final decision,” he added.

On Sunday, Iran’s Deputy Petroleum Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia said the freeze initiative was “a small step in the right,” adding the onus was on other countries to tackle the supply glut.

Before the lifting of sanctions, Tehran repeatedly demanded that OPEC members cut their production and make room for Iran when it returned to the market but the request fell on deaf ears.

Saudi Arabia led an aggressive push by oil producers in raising output to replace Iranian barrels, leading to an oversupply which has caused prices to nosedive around 70% since mid-2014.

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