TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran will continue fuel shipments to Venezuela if Caracas requests more supplies, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday, despite Washington’s criticism of the trade between the two nations, which are both under U.S. sanctions.
"If the Venezuelan government demands a new cargo, based on the grounds prepared, we will send it to this country or other countries,” Abbas Mousavi said.
"What has happened by dispatching oil tankers to Venezuela was a legitimate trade in the view of the Islamic Republic, and Tehran and Caracas were entitled to it,” Mousavi said.
"What the U.S. is doing is an illegal sanctions and other governments don’t have to obey it,” he added.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei echoed foreign ministry’s position by stressing that Iran would "decisively trade commodities anywhere possible in the future too”.
Defying U.S. threats, Iran has sent a flotilla of five tankers of fuel to the South American oil-producing nation, which is suffering from a gasoline shortage.
According to Reuters, Washington has secretly warned governments, seaports, shippers and insurers that they could face measures if they aid the tankers.
However, the Washington Post said "Trump’s sanctions are failing”.
By showing that they were able to trade to mutual benefit, Iran and Venezuela "not only successfully circumvented U.S. sanctions, they also scored public relations points in the process”, the paper said.
The Post touched on the Trump
administration’s "maximum pressure” strategy against Iran and Venezuela, saying the two allies "show no signs of bending to external pressure”.
Refinitiv Eikon said on Sunday two Iranian tankers that delivered fuel to Venezuela as part of the flotilla have begun to sail back.
The supply is meant to ease fuel shortages that have plagued Venezuela. After three months of fuel rationing, Venezuelans began lining up on Saturday to wait for the Iranian gasoline to be sold at stations from Monday under a new system combining subsidies and internationally-indexed prices.
The model will put an end to over two decades of Venezuelans filling up their tanks for next to nothing.
In most of the country’s 1,800 gasoline stations, motorists will be able to buy 60 to 120 liters per month at a subsidized price of about 2.5 U.S. cents per liter. After surpassing quotas, tanks will be filled at higher prices.
Venezuela’s Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said on Sunday that licenses were approved for 200 stations to sell gasoline at internationally-indexed prices without quotas. The initial price at those sites is $0.50 per liter.
"To the people: thank you for your comprehension, for your heroic resistance and for trusting President (Nicolas) Maduro’s government,” he said in a televised speech.
The two first Iranian tankers that discharged fuel last week departed over the weekend from state-run PDVSA’s ports. The Fortune on Sunday set sail to its origin port, Iran’s Bandar Abbas, with estimated arrival in July, while the Forest on Saturday departed from the Cardon refinery, according to the Eikon data.
Iran took the bold step of sending five fuel tankers to Venezuela last month after Washington threatened foreign governments, seaports, shipping companies and insurers.
The U.S. navy also sent warships to the Caribbean in an apparent bid to discourage Iran, but the Islamic Republic’s somber warning of retaliation if its vessels were intercepted forced the United States to back down.
The oil industries of Iran and Venezuela are both under U.S. sanctions. Iran is providing its fellow OPEC member up to 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and refining components to help ease an acute shortage, the result of the sanctions.