Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted the US harsh sanctions against his country, and said Washington is not entitled to meddle with Iran’s exports of fuel to Venezuela.
“We are facing the harsh sanctions in addition to the outbreak of an epidemic disease (coronavirus),” President Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.
“The Americans want to interfere in an ordinary trade and shipping of oil products from Iran to a friendly state and this is something that is none of their business at all and is not consistent with any law,” he added.
President Rouhani stressed that unity among the Iranian government, other branches of power and the Armed Forces deterred the US plot to make an aggression against the Iranian oil tankers voyaging towards Venezuela.
The first of five Iranian oil tankers entered the Venezuelan territorial waters last week to show Iran’s determination to carry out exports of goods and oil to everywhere in the world regardless of US threats.
According to the online tracking data, the Iranian-flagged tanker, named Fortune, arrived in the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Saturday evening.
Based on media reports, upon entering the Venezuelan waters, the ship was closely followed by a US cargo ship, the Adam Joseph.
Four other tankers – the Clavel, the Forest, the Faxon and the Petunia – followed the Iranian tanker ‘Fortune’ all en route to Venezuela’s shores.
The tankers are carrying a total of 1.53 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources and calculations by TankerTrackers.com.
Reuters had quoted a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration as saying earlier this month that the United States is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to Venezuela.
On Friday, President Rouhani said his country is always entitled to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and warned that if his country’s oil tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world get into trouble by the Americans, Tehran will definitely retaliate.
“Although some of the US measures have created unacceptable conditions in different parts of the world, we will not be the initiator of tension and clash,” Rouhani said in a phone call with the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Referring to the American moves in the Caribbean, he reiterated, “If our oil tankers face problems in the Caribbean Sea or anywhere in the world by the Americans, they will face problems reciprocally.”
We see the conditions today more apt for cooperation, especially given the outbreak of this disease; but the US continues its incorrect decisions and inhumane behaviors, the president noted.
He made it clear, “As before, we stress that the security of our region, particularly the marine security, is maintained by the regional countries and we have always announced that we are ready for cooperation with the neighboring countries.”
The Qatari Emir, for his part, underlined that the regional security should be maintained by the countries in the region and they should cooperate with each other to secure waterways in the region.
Hamad Al Thani also added that his country will try to deescalate tension.
Also, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri on Friday warned Washington of the dire repercussions of any hostile move against Iran’s interests, vowing that Tehran would not hesitate to strike back in case it is targeted by the US.
Bagheri noted Iran’s right to free shipment in the high seas, and stressed that the armed forces are constantly monitoring every small move of the enemies, including the adventurous, terrorist and antihuman American army in the region and faraway lands.
“We stand firm and decided to give the US an appropriate response for any miscalculation against the national interests of Iran,” the top commander stressed, in a stern warning to the US to avoid any hostile move aganst five Iranian tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela.
Venezuela’s defense minister said last Wednesday that planes and ships from the nation’s armed forces will escort Iranian tankers arriving with fuel to the gasoline-starved country to prevent any US aggression.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said Venezuela’s navy and air force will welcome the five Iranian tankers, seeing them through the nation’s maritime territory and into port.
He compared the fuel tankers to humanitarian aid that China and Russia have sent to help Venezuela combat the new coronavirus pandemic.
Meantime, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned the US against any hostile move or trouble-making for the country’s oil tankers in international waters.
“Troubling the oil tankers is a violation of international laws and security. Both international organizations and countries which are sensitive to the laws and waterways’ security should certainly show reaction to such an act,” General Hatami told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran last Wednesday.
He described any possible US trouble-making for the Iranian tankers in the free waters as “piracy”.
“Of course, our policy is fully clear and we have clearly announced that we will not tolerate any disturbance. The Americans and others know that we certainly do not hesitate to react to any such move and if the disturbances increase and continue, they will certainly face a firm response,” General Hatami said.