WASHINGTON — The United States, its European allies and key Arab states are intensifying talks on how to maintain stability in the global energy markets in case of a formal embargo on Iran’s oil exports and its central bank, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday. Citing unnamed U.S. and European officials, the newspaper said such an embargo would constitute the most direct economic confrontation yet between Iran and the West.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if such an embargo is introduced. The West alleges Tehran is seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear research program. Iran denies any such ambition and says its work is only for civil energy and medical purposes. In recent weeks, Iranian officials have insisted the country was ready to face new sanctions against the oil sector and central bank. U.S. and European officials have indicated they are seeking assurances from major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, to increase exports to the European Union and Asian nations if tighter sanctions on Tehran’s energy exports and central bank are enforced in the coming months, the Journal report said.
These officials said there is also a growing discussion with emerging oil exporters — such as Libya, Iraq, Ghana and Angola — to increase their production capacities to guard against any shortages caused by the West’s economic campaign against Iran, The Journal noted. “If properly implemented, countries will trend away from Iranian supply,” the paper quoted a European official as saying. “There are lots of conversations going on with Saudis at various levels on this.” Representatives from 11 countries involved in the financial war against Tehran will meet on Tuesday in Rome as part of a group that has been informally dubbed the “coalition of like-minded countries,” The Journal recalled. U.S., European and Arab diplomats said Iran’s oil exports and global energy prices will be key issues discussed at that session, which Western diplomats said will include foreign ministry and finance officials from all the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, along with South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the report said. In addition to energy policy, the conference will focus on sanctions on Iran’s finance and transportation sectors, and ensuring the free flow of information into Iran, the paper noted.