France Mocks, China Rebukes Iranian 'Oil Cuts'

Iran's decision to cut oil sales to French and British companies has amused Paris and exasperated Beijing.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Alain Juppe
Alain Juppe
US State Department Photo

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe mocked Iran's recent announcement it was halting oil exports to Britain and France saying it "makes one smile."

Juppe noted on Monday that it was the European Union that decided to impose an oil embargo, adding that the Islamic republic is "very imaginative" in its attempts to provoke other nations.

Juppe noted that Iranian oil previously exported by France had very little significance, adding Iran's decision to cut oil to Paris was "meaningless" as Paris curbed its oil exports from Iran last year.

The French Foreign Ministry also issued a statement, noting that French oil companies already put an end to purchases from Iran on their own initiative.

The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz – which the West has said would be “an act of war.”

On Sunday, Iran's oil ministry went a step further; announcing Iran has now stopped selling oil to French and British companies.

However, Chinese officials appear less amused than their French counterparts. On Monday, Beijing rebuked Tehran for stopping oil sales to British and French companies.

"We have consistently upheld dialogue and negotiation as the way to resolve disputes between countries, and do not approve of exerting pressure or using confrontation to resolve issues," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said of Iran's most recent decision.

China "hopes all sides can get back onto the correct path of dialogue as soon as possible," Hong told a daily news briefing.

The statement was a rare expression of exasperation directed at Tehran from Beijing, which has consistently shielded Iran from sanctions in the UN Security Council stemming from Tehran's nuclear program

China is one of the largest users of Iranian oil, buying around 20 percent of total exports.

Iran claims it has no problems finding new customers to purchase its oil, but the actual pool of nations who buy oil from Iran - as well as the banking channels open for payment - has shrunk since sanctions began.

On Monday, one of China's two major buyers of Iranian crude reduced the amount it will take this year although by how much was unclear. China has long been considered the buyer of last resort for Iranian crude displaced by sanctions.

The announcement came amid reports Indian officials were mulling turning to Saudi Arabia to replace Iranian crude in the wake of a recent bombing in Delhi targeting an Israeli diplomat's wife.

While senior Indian officials have thus far refused to blame Iran for the attack, sources close to the investigation have said senior intelligence officials believe Iran carried out the bombing using local proxies.

India, the second largest consumer of Iranian oil, consumes 12 percent of Tehran's exportable crude oil and has some USD 10 billion in trade agreements with the Islamic Republic.

However, despite a determined effort to ignore Western sanctions, Indian oil refineries have expressed a desire to diversify their import sources noting that the few banking channels that remain available to purchase Iranian oil have become uncertain.

Senior Indian officials met with officials in Riyadh – who have volunteered to make up any shortfalls in Iranian crude exports – to discuss oil contracts last week.