IRAN’S Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran is ready to sell more fuel to the Lebanese government and businessmen if need be, as an Iranian ship transporting fuel for the crisis-hit country entered Syria’s territorial waters.
In a Friday phone call with Gebran Bassil, the former Lebanese minister of foreign affairs and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran sets no limitation to the expansion of mutual relations with Lebanon and is ready to sell more fuel production to ‘new customers’.
‘The strategy adopted by the esteemed leader of Hezbollah to end this Zionist-made crisis against the Lebanese people confirms the fact that the path to Lebanon’s honour depends only on self-reliance and the use of its assets and resources,’ he said.
The top diplomat emphasised Iran’s unwavering support for Lebanon’s government, army and the resistance movement.
The first ship containing Iranian fuel reportedly entered Syria’s territorial waters on Thursday to unload its cargo, which is being transferred to Lebanon via tankers. Informed sources said that two other Iranian ships will also deliver their cargo to Lebanon through the same mechanism.
Fuel shortages in Lebanon have forced businesses and government offices to close, threatening to cause blackouts at hospitals and halt transportation and other vital sectors in the Arab country.
The plan to buy Iranian fuel, announced by Secretary General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on August 19, is seen as a watershed in overcoming the US sanctions, which have severely affected Lebanon and Iran alike.
In his announcement, the Hezbollah chief warned the US and Israel that Hezbollah would consider the tanker and next Iranian ships as ‘Lebanese territory’ from the moment they sail. He later stressed that the Lebanese resistance group did not have any political aspirations by importing fuel from Iran.
The former Lebanese foreign minister, for his part, thanked Iran for selling and shipping fuel to Lebanon.
Bassil criticised those who want to starve the Lebanese people in order to achieve their political ambitions and called for the improvement of all-out ties with Iran.
He also delivered to Amir-Abdollahian a message from Lebanese President Michel Aoun to his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raeisi.
Meanwhile, Amir-Abdollahian has said the Islamic Republic welcomes negotiations on the revival of the nuclear deal it snatched with world powers in 2015, but will not engage in talks just for the sake of talks.
He made the remarks in a Thursday phone call with his Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg, during which the two sides discussed matters of mutual interest to both countries as well as ways to bolster bilateral relations.
During the conversation, Iran’s top diplomat noted that although the Islamic Republic in essence welcomes negotiations on the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it believes that ‘engaging in negotiations for the sake of negotiations is not acceptable’.
‘The Islamic Republic of Iran has kept its end of the bargain in maintaining the JCPOA through its strategic patience in the face of the US withdrawal and the inaction of the European side, and now it’s about time for the other JCPOA parties to cooperate and honour their commitments in a real and practical manner,’ Iran’s foreign minister said.
Iran and world powers, including the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, struck the JCPOA on July 14, 2015. Under the accord, Iran agreed to scale back some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
However, the US, under former President Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the deal and reinstated crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic, although the country had been fully compliant with the deal.
In early April, Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA began to hold talks in Vienna, Austria, after the Joe Biden administration voiced willingness to rejoin the nuclear agreement, three years after Trump’s withdrawal.
The negotiations were paused soon after the victory of Ebrahim Raeisi in Iran’s June 18 presidential election.
Elsewhere during the phone call, the Iranian Foreign Minister praised Iraq for hosting the Baghdad International Conference for Cooperation and Participation, saying the initiative was a good platform for intra-regional cooperation.
‘Of course, Iraq and its sovereignty have been the target of meddlesome and irresponsible actions by some parties, including the United States, as we have seen in the cowardly assassination of the internationally renowned counter-terror hero, General Soleimani, and the high-ranking Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,’ he added.
Schallenberg, for his part, congratulated Amir-Abdollahian on assuming his new post, and underlined his country’s readiness to boost bilateral cooperation and provide Iran with one million coronavirus vaccine doses within two weeks.
He also thanked the Islamic Republic for its help in transferring Austrian nationals from Afghanistan and highlighted the necessity of exchanging views on the JCPOA and the resumption of the Vienna talks.
In a separate phone conversation on Thursday, Amir-Abdollahian told his German counterpart Heiko Maas that any negotiations on the revival of the nuclear accord must lead to the removal of the illegal sanctions imposed on the country.
‘We agree on the essence of Vienna talks, but we (only) accept those negotiations that would lead to the removal of the (US) sanctions and meet the inalienable rights of Iran,’ he said.
The top Iranian diplomat advised the three European parties to the JCPOA, Germany, the UK and France, also known as the E3, to change course with regard to the implementation of the deal and end their inaction toward their JCPOA obligations.
New Minister of Petroleum Javad Owji says the ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions have deprived Iran of 1.8 billion barrels of oil exports and more than $100 billion of revenues.
Amir-Abdollahian also said the Americans do not have a correct understanding of the region and its people, particularly Iran.
‘The Americans need to know that they must speak only through the language of respect, courtesy and logic, and that the language they occasionally use not only does not help resolve the problems, but creates more problems in itself,’ he emphasised.
The Iranian foreign minister then criticised the Americans for their hypocrisy, saying that they have even created obstacles to the delivery of pharmaceutical and vital products such as vaccines produced in Germany to Iran.
He was making a reference to the US claim that the sanctions don’t affect humanitarian activities, while in fact, as repeatedly stated by Iranian authorities, they have restricted Iran’s ability to transfer money, making it difficult to buy medicines and medical equipment from other countries.
Maas said for his part that his country was ready to boost its bilateral relations with Iran in different fields.
He also called for the resumption of the Vienna talks as soon as possible.
In a separate development, President Ebrahim Raeisi has visited Iran’s remotest border province of Sistan and Baluchestan, where he pledged to wipe out poverty and discrimination as he talked to locals to get a closer understanding of their problems.
Raeisi arrived in the province on Thursday, marking his second unannounced visit since he became president, in what is widely regarded as his attempt to fulfil his campaign promise of uprooting poverty and inequality.
He said living in huts due to poverty is not a desirable situation for the people of the area, stressing that any measure to improve the living conditions of deprived areas is an admirable deed for those behind the move.
While paying a visit to the coastal region of Makran, the president described it as a ‘national treasure’, and said more attention should be paid to its strategic development.
‘We should develop a good mechanism for a production boom (in the region),’ he said. ‘The issue of development of Makran coasts must be seen and followed in a special way.
‘If given the required attention, the Makran and Chabahar regions by themselves will increase the capacity of the province’s economic development and eradicate poverty in Sistan and Baluchestan,’ Raeisi added.
He also expressed joy over the unity he witnessed between Shias and Sunnis in the province.
The president continued his trip to different areas of Sistan and Baluchestan on Friday, promising to follow up on the people’s water issue in order to turn the ‘threat’ and ‘problem’ into an ‘opportunity’ and resolve the underprivileged people’s problems with respect to drinking and agricultural water.
Raeisi said the governors of deprived provinces, including Sistan and Baluchestan, have been granted additional authority to resolve their problems rapidly.
He made his first unannounced visit to Iran’s key province of Khuzestan last Friday, only two days after the formation of his cabinet.