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Zarif warns US against preventing Iran from using Hormuz Strait to sell oil

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at an event at the Asia Society forum in New York on April 24, 2019. (Photo by IRNA)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned the US against any measure to prevent Tehran from using the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of its oil.

The “Persian Gulf is our lifeline … so stability of [the] Persian Gulf, freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf, [and] free flow of oil in the Persian Gulf [are] in our vital national security interest,”   Zarif said at an event at the Asia Society in New York on Wednesday.

“We guarantee [the security and stability of the Persian Gulf] as long as it is in our national security interest. If we are prevented from using [the] Persian Gulf for our national security, then why should we guarantee it?” he added, noting, “If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences.”

The top Iranian diplomat reiterated that Iran will continue to find buyers for its oil despite the US declared bid to cut Iranian oil imports to zero.

“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil. That is our intention and that is what we believe will happen,” he said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif pointed to US’s obstructionist acts to hinder Iran’s business with other countries in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which Zarif said its purpose is to “normalize Iran’s business relations” and which “calls on all states to implement the resolution.”

He slammed Washington for violating the resolution, which supports a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and threatening other states with punishment if they engage in trade with Tehran.     

“The United States is not only not complying [with the deal] itself but it is saying that the rest of the world should not comply and it is going a step further saying that we will punish you if you comply,” he said. 

“This is the first time … that this is happening at the UN that a permanent member of the Security Council is openly calling on other countries to violate a Security Council resolution and threatening them with punishment if they didn’t,” Zarif added.

He said it is not for Iran to make a change in its policies, stressing that current world relations brook no coercion from the US.  

“We know that the Unites States is a big economic power. We know that the Unites States is huge market. We know that nobody wants to lose the US market but the American government should understand that people are doing this out of desperation because they have no other choice; this is coercion, pure and simple. Do we want to build international relations in coercion? Do you think it is sustainable,” he said, adding, “Power has to be moderated by some sort of rules, otherwise we will be living in a jungle.”

Touching on US sanctions reimposed on Iran following Washington’s withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Zarif said sanctions hurt the ordinary Iranians but stressed they will fail to force Iran to change its policies.

“Sanctions certainly impact our economy. Sanctions target ordinary people …. They are targeting Iranian people … Sanctions will hurt, no doubt about it, but will sanctions change policies? They won’t. Never have, never will,” he said.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has said it seeks to stop Iranian oil sales by imposing sanctions on countries that continue purchasing Iranian crude after May 1.

In May last year, Washington unilaterally withdrew from a multilateral deal with Iran that mainly guarantees Iran’s oil sales in return for a number of concessions by Iran and the lifting of US sanctions on the country.

Previously, the US had issued waivers to its sanctions for eight major buyers of Iranian crude but on Monday, the White House said in a statement that Trump has decided not to renew the waivers that allow eight countries to buy Iranian oil without facing Washington's sanctions.

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