20th May 2019

Iran stops oil sale to France and UK

  • Tehran is stopping its oil exports to France and UK (Photo: Recovering Sick Soul)

Iran stopped oil exports to the UK and France on Sunday (19 January) in what is seen as a pre-emptive move ahead of the EU’s sanctions against the regime.

The EU will stop importing Iran’s crude oil starting 1 July. It also sanctioned Tehran's petrochemicals industry and froze some of the Central Bank of Iran's assets.

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The EU imports around 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day, the equivalent to 18 percent of all its daily oil energy needs, from the country. Most of the oil is shipped to Greece, Spain and Italy.

France only imported around 3 percent of its oil last year from Iran, reports AFP. In the UK, a British government official told the BBC that it would have "no impact on UK energy security." Iranian crude oil represents less than 1 percent of Britain’s energy needs.

Tehran is largely dependent on its oil imports for revenue. More than half of its national budget comes from crude oil exports.

The EU hopes the phase out will hit Iran’s national coffers and force the country into stopping its nuclear power progamme. Both EU and American officials believe Tehran is enriching uranium, an essential component for a nuclear device.

Iran started enriching uranium at a level of near 20 percent at the underground facility in Qom, a site controlled by the Iranian military, foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said earlier this month.

Iran maintains its nuclear programme is for civilian use and has said the alleged military intentions are based on “fabricated documents”.

A senior UN nuclear official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) left for Iran on Sunday to discuss the issue.

“We hope that we can have some concrete results after this trip, and the highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme,” he told reporters before his flight at the Vienna airport.

The Iranians appear to have made some overtures. Last week, they sent a letter to Ashton calling for a new round of negotiations, reports the New York Times.

In the meantime, authorities in Tehran say the EU ban will not affect their sales. “We have our own customers and have no problem to sell and export our crude oil to new customers,” said Iran’s oil ministry spokesperson on Sunday.

Despite the sanctions, the EU remains Iran’s principle trading partner. In 2010, the EU imported €14.5 bn of goods from Iran and exported €11.3 bn to the country.

EU points to oil reserves after Iran threat

The European Commission has noted that "there is a lot of oil around" inside reserves in EU countries even if Iran makes good on threats to stop shipments next week.

EU sanctions on Iran peppered with exemptions

New sanctions on Iran could prove hard to enforce after EU countries peppered them with derogations to help Greece find alternate suppliers and to give Tehran-based embassies access to cash.

Middle East risks becoming a 'giant failed state'

With EU countries crafting plans on how to shape events in Syria, David Hirst, a noted writer on the Middle East, has warned that the Arab uprisings are out of Western control.

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

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