NEW YORK (Dispatches) – Iran will continue to find buyers for its oil and use the Strait of Hormuz to transport it, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, warning that if the United States tries to stop Tehran, then it should "be prepared for the consequences.”
"We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif also told an event at the Asia Society in New York.
"If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he said.
The United States on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.
Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.
When asked if the U.S. pressure campaign on Tehran was aimed at sparking further negotiations or regime change, Zarif said: "The B team wants regime change at the very least.” He described the B Team as including Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.
"We’re allergic to pressure,” he said, adding in a message to the Trump administration: "Try the language of respect, it won’t kill you, believe me.”
Zarif also said that Iran had told the U.S. administration six months ago that it was open to a prisoner swap deal, but had not yet received a response.
"All these people that are in prison inside the United States ... we believe their charges are phony. The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phony. Let’s not discuss that,” he said.
"Let’s have an exchange. I’m ready to do it and I have authority to do it,” Zarif said.
The Iranian foreign minister described the Trump administration’s officials as "pawns in Netanyahu’s game”, warning them against the consequences of the "extremely dangerous” Israeli game they are playing.
Zarif made the remarks upon arrival in New York, where is going to attend a UN General Assembly meeting on multilateralism and peace.
"With the U.S., with the standing of the U.S. in the world, it seems that President Trump and the current people in the White House concern and consider more importantly the interests of Israel than those of the U.S.,” Zarif told reporters late Tuesday.
"[They] have become in fact pawns in a very dangerous Israeli game, in fact Netanyahu’s game in our region. And this is extremely unfortunate and extremely dangerous,” he warned.
Zarif described the U.S. as the "source of instability in this region”, saying that it has been cooperating with and supporting other sources of instability in this region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which, according to the Iranian top diplomat, are countries that have "violated every principle of international humanitarian law.”
"They [the Americans] need to reassess their policies and return to a normal behavior in the international scene. The US is currently an outlaw state that has violated almost any agreement that it had agreed,” Zarif went on to say.
"The U.S. has not shown that it’s a credible negotiating partner; it has shown its contempt for international law and its own agreements and decisions in the past.”
The Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday called the U.S.’ tightening of oil sanctions on Iran an "aggressive and reckless" policy, saying, "Such a course of action adds nothing to the Americans' international standing.”
"The rest of the world perfectly understands that Washington's policy is becoming more and more aggressive and reckless," it said in a statement.
The ministry said that "Washington is not even hiding its desire to make the world bend to its will," branding the heightened Iran sanctions "disturbing".
Russia also praised Tehran's "restraint" over "the arrogant American provocations”, calling on all parties "with common sense" to do what they can to ensure the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear activities survives.
Oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest level since November 2018 in the aftermath of Washington’s decision to end exemptions from sanctions for the countries buying oil from Iran.
Brent crude futures rose as high as $74.70, a level not seen since November 1, 2018, before paring their increase as the market gained confidence that global supply would remain robust. By 1355 GMT, Brent futures were at $74.28 a barrel, up 24 cents, or 0.32 percent, from their last close, Reuters reported.