Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran does not seek to escalate tensions with the United States, but it will not let Washington disrupt the security of Persian Gulf, the “lifeline of Iran”.
“We have been very clear that we have no interest in escalation,” Zarif said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera TV, which is to be aired on Saturday.
“We have been clear that the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz are our lifeline. We depend on them for our livelihood, and we want them safe, secure, and free for navigation of all countries, including Iran,” he said.
“As we have stated before, Iran won’t permit the US to threaten the Persian Gulf,” the foreign minister added.
The US has vowed to cut Iran’s oil exports down to zero, prompting Tehran to warn that it will not allow any other country to export oil through the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran cannot sell its crude.
Last Sunday, Iran’s top military commander said Iran wants the strait — through which nearly one-third of all oil traded by sea passes — to remain open and secure, warning that the country will not allow anyone to destabilize the waters.
“As oil and commodities of other countries are passing through the Strait of Hormuz, ours are also moving through it,” said Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri.
Iran “will definitely confront anyone who attempts to destabilize the Strait of Hormuz, and if our crude is not to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, others' [crude] will not pass either.”
The Iranian commander explained, “This does not mean [that we are going to] close the Strait of Hormuz. We do not intend to shut it unless the enemies’ hostile acts will leave us with no other option. We will be fully capable of closing it on that day.”
The US administration said in a statement on April 22 that buyers of Iranian oil must stop their purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers -- Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan -- to continue importing limited volumes.
The US also said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would "more than make up the oil flow difference" to make sure that global markets were not unsettled. The two OPEC members are close Washington allies and firmly back US President Donald Trump's hostile Iran policy.
“We will continue to sell our oil and we will seek customers, and we will always remember those who worked with us during times of difficulty,” Zarif said.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani played down Washington’s plan to cut Iran’s oil sales to zero, saying Tehran has its own ways of selling oil and will keep up its exports despite US pressure.
“America’s decision to block and cut Iran’s oil exports to zero is wrong and we will not let this decision become operational,” Rouhani said during a ceremony commemorating Workers' Week in Tehran.
“In future months, Americans will see that we will continue our oil exports," he said.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also said that the US administration’s hostile attempts to block Iran’s oil sales will lead nowhere, and that the country will export “as much crude as it needs and wishes” in defiance of American sanctions.