US in 'no rush' to lift sanctions on Venezuela

  • : Crude oil
  • 21/03/08

President Joe Biden's administration has no immediate plans to relax the sanctions pressure against Venezuela's oil sector, despite doubts about its effectiveness and humanitarian drawbacks.

"There is no rush to lift sanctions," a senior administration official told reporters today. "The US is going to continue to increase the pressure, and it is going to expand that pressure multilaterally" until such time that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's government negotiates in good faith with its opponents and agrees to hold free and fair elections, the US official said.

Biden's administration today made good on his campaign pledge of granting temporary asylum status to more than 300,000 Venezuelans living in the US — a small part of the more than 5mn refugees who left the country over the past decade because of deteriorating economic and social conditions.

Biden has criticized his predecessor's policy of unilateral sanctions against Caracas as ineffective, and his top officials say that the criticism is still valid. But changing that policy has proved difficult because it could require Washington to abandon its recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim leader — a bridge too far for a US administration that has promised to make the promotion of human rights and democracy a top priority.

The net result is that US officials make a good case for altering the sanctions regime but not until a credible dialogue between Maduro and the Guaido-led opposition succeeds in ensuring new elections in Venezuela.

In Washington, senior Democratic members of the House of Representatives have called on the White House to ensure that sanctions do not interfere with the provision of humanitarian assistance to Venezuela. The oil industry separately is pushing for restoring crude-for-diesel swaps for non-US companies, making the case that it would ensure fuel supply for food and aid distribution and power generation.

"The focus of sanctions should be to increase pressure on the (Maduro) regime, eliminate any sort of access to corrupt capital to sustain themselves but also not one that penalizes unnecessarily the Venezuelan people," the US official said.

"The only outcome of this crisis is a negotiation that leads to a democratic solution," the official said.

Maduro in the past has used negotiations with the opposition as a delaying tactic, so the US will need to be persuaded that future talks are in earnest, according to the official. "Once that happens, we will consult with the international community and the (Guaido) interim government and make decisions about whether sanctions would be lifted."

Venezuela's crude production has recovered to around 500,000 b/d, but that is still less than half pre-US sanctions levels. While the financial and oil sanctions imposed by Washington have accelerated the decline in the Opec producer's output, decades of mismanagement and the departure of trained professionals from state-owned PdV are the root causes of the drop.

The US is looking for new ways to pressure the Maduro government, since Caracas appears to have adapted to the oil sanctions, the US official said. "We have clearly seen is that the regime has adapted to sanctions, oil markets long ago have adapted to oil sanctions, and that they are able to sustain themselves through illicit flows."

The US has vowed to coordinate its Venezuela policy more closely with the EU and countries in the western hemisphere. But the US is almost alone now in continuing to recognize Guaido and the defunct legislature he heads as the country's sole legitimate authority. The EU has called on the opposition to make "difficult compromises" in joining negotiations with Maduro.


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Iran's crude output at 3.6mn b/d, says oil minister


24/06/19
24/06/19

Iran's crude output at 3.6mn b/d, says oil minister

Dubai, 19 June (Argus) — Iran's crude output has risen to around 3.6mn b/d, according to the country's oil minister Javad Owji. This puts production at the highest level since sanctions were reimposed on Tehran's oil sector in 2018 following Washington's exit from the Iran nuclear deal. "Our oil production, which was 2.1mn b/d at the beginning of our time in office [in September 2021], has reached 3.6mn b/d," Owji said today during a presentation to the Iranian parliament. "During these three years… with round-the-clock work and effort, production of crude oil in the country rose by more than 1.4mn b/d," he said. "A major part of that increase came through signing investment contracts with [domestic] contractors." When the administration of Iran's late president Ebrahim Raisi assumed office, Iran's crude exports were at their lowest level in a decade, Owji added. Owji's current production figure is 200,000 b/d above where he put Iranian crude output in November last year . At that time, he predicted a rise to 3.6mn b/d by March 2024, continuing an upward trend since the back end of 2022. In July last year, Owji put output at just shy of 3.1mn b/d. His latest assessment is around 300,000 b/d above Argus' estimate for both April and May . The last time Argus estimated Iranian crude output as high as 3.6mn b/d was back in July 2018. The rebound in production has been driven by Iran's ability to boost its exports. Iranian exports began picking up in the months after US president Joe Biden assumed office in January 2021, reaching around 700,000-750,000 b/d compared with 500,000 b/d before the US election. It was not until the second half of 2022 that exports took another leap, to 1mn b/d and beyond. Iran's crude exports have averaged just shy of 1.6mn b/d since the start of this year, according to data from Vortexa, up from 1.42mn b/d in 2023 and 990,000 b/d in 2022. The reasons for the revival in exports have been the subject of much debate, with some attributing it to more relaxed enforcement of sanctions by the US and others saying it has more to do with Iran scaling up its methods of circumvention. The debate even became a point of contention among Iranian presidential candidates this week as they gear up for the country's election on 28 June. Conservative candidates and even regime hardliners largely attribute the boost in exports to methods of circumvention. "Constructive and extensive relations with the world are required for [improving] the economy. This happened during the tenure of martyr Raisi. Now the US foreign secretary must explain to the [US] Senate why Iran can sell 2mn b/d of oil now," former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said on 15 June. Raisi administration officials have repeatedly pointed to their techniques to get around sanctions and "energy diplomacy" as reasons for Iran's success in raising exports. But the reformist camp refutes those claims, with former foreign minister Javad Zarif rejecting the conservative narrative on state television on 18 June. "They [hardliners] said 'we taught them how to sell oil.' Not at all," Zarif said. "When Biden took office, his policy was to loosen the screw. Wait until Trump returns to office, and then we can see what [the hardliners] say." By Bachar Halabi and Nader Itayim Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Tropical storm warning for South Texas coast: Update


24/06/18
24/06/18

Tropical storm warning for South Texas coast: Update

Updates with closure of Galveston, Texas City ports. New York, 18 June (Argus) — A tropical storm warning has been issued for parts of south Texas and northeastern Mexico, bringing with it the risk of heavy rainfall and flooding. The warning is in effect for the Texas coast from Port O'Connor south to the mouth of the Rio Grande, as well as the northeastern coast of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center. "The disturbance is very large with rainfall, coastal flooding, and wind impacts likely to occur far from the center along the coasts of Texas and northeastern Mexico," the center said overnight. Maximum sustained winds this morning remained near 40 mph and the disturbance is forecast to become a tropical storm by Wednesday. The system has been classified as a potential tropical cyclone by the center since it has not yet become better organized, but is expected to become the first named storm system of the year by early Wednesday. The port of Corpus Christi in South Texas and the Houston Ship Channel remained open as of Tuesday morning, but the nearby ports of Galveston and Texas City closed to inbound and outbound shipping traffic at 10pm ET Monday due to heavy weather, the US Coast Guard said. The system was expected to disrupt ship-to-ship transfer operations off the Texas coast as of Monday evening because of heavy seas. In the Gulf of Mexico, the transfer typically is from an Aframax or Suezmax onto a very large crude carrier (VLCC) at designated lightering zones near Corpus Christi, Galveston and Beaumont-Port Arthur. Prolonged lightering delays can prevent crude tanker tonnage from becoming available and exert upward pressure on freight rates, while also adding to demurrage fees. The storm is expected to turn towards the west-northwest and west tonight and Wednesday, with the system forecast to approach the western Gulf coast late Wednesday, the NHC said. Rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches are seen across northeast Mexico into South Texas, with maximum totals of 15 inches possible. Flash and urban flooding are likely to follow with river flooding. By Stephen Cunningham and Tray Swanson Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Tropical storm warning for South Texas coast


24/06/18
24/06/18

Tropical storm warning for South Texas coast

New York, 18 June (Argus) — A tropical storm warning has been issued for parts of South Texas and northeastern Mexico, bringing with it the risk of heavy rainfall and flooding. The warning is in effect for the Texas coast from Port O'Connor south to the mouth of the Rio Grande, as well as the northeastern coast of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center. "The disturbance is very large with rainfall, coastal flooding, and wind impacts likely to occur far from the center along the coasts of Texas and northeastern Mexico," the center said overnight. Maximum sustained winds this morning remained near 40 mph and the disturbance is forecast to become a tropical storm by Wednesday. The system has been classified as a potential tropical cyclone by the center since it has not yet become better organized, but is expected to become the first named storm system of the year by early Wednesday. The system was expected to disrupt ship-to-ship transfer operations off the Texas coast as of Monday evening because of heavy seas. In the Gulf of Mexico, the transfer typically is from an Aframax or Suezmax onto a very large crude carrier (VLCC) at designated lightering zones near Corpus Christi, Galveston and Beaumont-Port Arthur. Prolonged lightering delays can prevent crude tanker tonnage from becoming available and exert upward pressure on freight rates, while also adding to demurrage fees. The storm is expected to turn towards the west-northwest and west tonight and Wednesday, with the system forecast to approach the western Gulf coast late Wednesday, the NHC said. Rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches are seen across northeast Mexico into South Texas, with maximum totals of 15 inches possible. Flash and urban flooding are likely to follow with river flooding. By Stephen Cunningham Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update


24/06/17
24/06/17

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update

Adds quotes from IAEA director general Dubai, 17 June (Argus) — Iran's foreign ministry has called on the G7 to distance itself from "destructive policies of the past" after the group issued a statement condemning Tehran's recent nuclear programme escalation. "Unfortunately, some countries, driven by political motives and by resorting to baseless and unproven claims, attempt to continue their failed and ineffective policy of imposing and maintaining sanctions against the Iranian nation," the foreign ministry's spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on 16 June. Kanaani advised the G7 "to learn from past experiences and distance itself from destructive past policies". His comments were in response to a joint statement from G7 leaders on 14 June warning Iran against advancing its nuclear enrichment programme. The leaders said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia. The G7's reference to Iran comes on the heels of a new resolution passed by the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA . The resolution calls on Iran to step up co-operation and reverse its decision to restrict the agency access to nuclear facilities by de-designating inspectors. Kanaani said "any attempt to link the war in Ukraine to the bilateral co-operation between Iran and Russia is an act with only biased political goals", adding that some countries are "resorting to false claims to continue sanctions" against Iran. Tehran will continue its "constructive interaction and technical co-operation" with the IAEA, Kanaani said. But the agency's resolution is "politically biased", he said. Not an "anti-Iran" policy In an interview with the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia published today, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi refused claims of political bias. "We do co-operate with Iran. I don't deny this. This is important for inspection. My Iranian colleagues often say that Iran is the most inspected country in the world. Well, it is, and for good reason. But this is not enough," Grossi said, adding that the IAEA does not adhere to an "anti-Iran policy". Grossi also stressed the need for countries to return to diplomacy with Iran, while expressing concerns over the expansion of its nuclear programme. "Russia plays a very important role in this diplomacy, trying to keep the Iranian programme within a predictable and peaceful framework. But again, everything needs to be controlled," he said. The IAEA's new resolution and the reference to Iran in the G7 statement could be the start of a more concerted effort to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. "What is happening right now is the process of accumulation of resolutions, so that when the day comes and the IAEA makes a referral to the UN Security Council, there will be enough resolutions to make a case for action at the security council level," a diplomatic source told Argus . Iran is enriching uranium to as high as 60pc purity. Near 90pc is considered to be weapons grade, according to the IAEA. By Bachar Halabi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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