The Iranian oil minister has lashed out at US special representative for Iran Brian Hook over his “meddlesome” meetings with members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, asserting that OPEC is an independent body that does not take orders from the US.
Bijan Namdar Zanganeh made the remarks in reaction to Hook’s Wednesday meeting with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih one day before OPEC’s 175th meeting in Vienna.
“If Mr. Hook has come to Vienna to apply for US membership in OPEC, and this is the reason why he meets OPEC members, the request can be reviewed,” Zanganeh told SHANA.
Otherwise, he added, the US official has adopted an unprofessional, naïve, and meddlesome approach.
“OPEC is an independent organization, not a part of the US Department of Energy to take orders from Washington,” said Zanganeh, who arrived in Vienna late Wednesday to attend the OPEC talks on Thursday and Friday.
Hook’s meeting with the Saudi official came after Riyadh indicated a need for steep reductions in output from January. However, it has come under pressure from US President Donald Trump, who has urged Riyadh to refrain from output cuts in order to keep oil prices low.
OPEC members will meet on Thursday and hold talks with allies such as Russia on Friday. The meetings are expected to be focused on a deal to reduce output.
‘Iran must be exempted from oil output cuts’
Upon arrival at Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, Zanganeh told reporters that Iran has always supported OPEC and its decisions for the stabilization of the market, but at this juncture, “Iran will not join any deal on production level as long as the [US] sanctions are in place.”
The Islamic Republic must be exempted from any future decision on oil production levels between OPEC member states and the countries which are not part of the body, until the US bans are lifted, he reiterated.
“There are many offers on oil production cut, and those members who want to reduce their oil output should make the decision,” Zanganeh said.
He also noted that Iran will not join the Joint OPEC-Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), which is monitoring the implementation of the oil output cut deal and issues recommendations for changing its conditions.
The JMMC acted beyond its mandate during the past 12 months, Zanganeh said, noting that the existence of the committee was unnecessary. He also emphasized that the committee should act in line with its mandate.
The minister also pointed to the recent fluctuations in the global oil prices caused by certain OPEC and non-OPEC members’ output rise, and said the desirable oil price for Iran is between $60 and $70.
While OPEC members are going to discuss the details of a deal on their production level, Iran’s OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardabili believes an agreement is unlikely to be reached.
Ardabili says any meaningful cuts in production must be made by the countries which have pumped above their quotas in breach of a 2017 deal between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers.
The deal is monitored by the JMMC, which is dominated by Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Ardabili said the committee has unilaterally allowed certain members to produce above their quotas since May despite being “obliged to inform other OPEC members of any change in production and secure their consensus.”
Despite the Iranian official’s remarks, Kuwait’s oil ministry said on its Twitter account on Wednesday that a long-term cooperation agreement is expected to be signed between OPEC and non-OPEC countries.
The possible deal will come after some OPEC and non-OPEC members motivated by an urge to get a better market share sharply increased their oil production, which led to a $30 drop in oil prices from their highest point.
The production surge took place in the run-up to Trump’s pledge to sanction Iran’s oil sector on Nov. 4 and later decide to give waivers to some customers.
Major producers such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE and Kuwait pounced on the occasion to produce as much oil as they could, anticipating a steep drop in Iran’s exports which did not happen.
The move has frustrated many producers, prompting Qatar to announce that it was quitting OPEC to focus on gas in a swipe at Saudi Arabia.
So far, OPEC members have lost $9 billion in total against $2.7 billion earned by the producers which have increased their production, he said.