In an interview with Persian daily Iran, Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr talks about how to neutralize oil sanctions, and reports that some lost oil markets have now been reactivated and the private sector has reentered the oil sales process.
Q: Do you have a plan to neutralize the impacts of sanctions on the oil industry?
A: If we pay attention to principles of the resistance economy, it is possible to neutralize the sanctions.
We should take the steps within the policies of the resistance economy. Another point is that neutralizing oil sanctions is a preemptive measure, but bypassing a treatment. As prevention is better than cure, neutralization is prioritized. In other words, we should be prepared in advance and have a preplanned scenario.
In fact, neutralization is much more important than bypassing. Neutralization success rate is higher. Since we should never be passive, we should be ready all the time, whether in the prevention phase or in the action phase.
So, neutralization should be our main task, but if we are suddenly confronted with an action, we should act in a timely manner. Another thing that can be helpful in neutralizing is to shorten our reaction time. It's so important. Therefore, one of the things we need to do at the National Iranian Oil Company in facing the sanctions is to shorten the response time to a minimum.
Q: Would you elaborate on the sanctions neutralization when it comes to oil sales?
A: First, as the officials of the Islamic Republic have pointed out before, we should not assume that the whole world and the international community are necessarily the United States and a few specific countries.
Meanwhile, the whole international community is not on the side of the US. Therefore, we can resort to different strategies and do our jobs in the NIOC – whether it is about selling oil, attracting foreign investment, or other measures such as the supply of materials and equipment.
The first principle to neutralize sanctions is that we do not believe there are only a few countries in the world; so, there are other ways to connect with the world.
The second issue with oil sales is that if we succeed and use exactly the rules and mechanisms of the international market, we can lift the sanctions and sell our crude. The more we observe market rules, techniques and tactics, the more we can achieve our success.
Furthermore, in the advanced form of oil sales, one method or one marketing model is no longer followed. These days, marketing for oil sales has taken different forms and we can use different ways of marketing. I cannot explain it in this interview. But I can say that based on these methods, we have managed to increase the sales of crude oil and gas condensates, compared to the last few months or before the 13th government, and also receive the revenues.
Q: Do you confirm that oil exports of Iran have reached 1.5 million barrels per day?
A: I do not say the exact amount, but I can tell you that the sales of oil and gas condensate have grown considerably when compared to figures in the previous government.
Q: It is important to sell oil and also return the money. Will the money from the sold oil return to the country?
A: Yes, in the 13th government, we succeeded in fulfilling the missions assigned to us by the government. We met what is mentioned in the budget bill of the current [Iranian] year in the field of oil production and increase in exports.
Q: Do we have blocked money for oil sales in the 13th government?
A: No, the whole revenues from oil sales made in the 13th government have been received.
Q: Do we have any arrears for increasing oil sales under the current oil and banking sanctions?
A: No. Completely received. Iran's oil revenues blocked in other countries are for the past and before the 13th government.
Q: Recently, the issue of barter of oil in exchange for domestic and foreign investment has been raised. How serious is this issue?
A: Yes, this is included in the Iranian year of 1401 budget and barter is a possibility. Barter can now happen in many forms. For instance the government can use the barter mechanism to pay off its creditors according to its regulations.
Q: Is it planned for domestic investments and payment of domestic debts or it also includes foreign investments?
A: In general, it is for any company to whom a debt is owed. The issue has been observed in the relevant regulations in the next year’s budget bill.
Q: Have you received any request from a foreign investor to make investment in any part of Iran's economy, from roadbuilding to construction of a refinery in exchange for oil?
A: If this is to happen, the executive bodies will follow up the issue through the Plan and Budget Organization (PBO), and the NIOC will make the payment based on the authorization it receives from the PBO. The way is open and the necessary process for barter will take place.
The budget bill specifies the amount of funds the organizations can use for it.
We are ready for it. Any company or investor, be it domestic or foreign, we are ready to repay it with oil consignments.
Q: Is this the first time that the issue of oil barter has been included in the budget bill?
A: Yes, it was not in the budget for the current Iranian year and before.
Q: Is China willing to invest in Iran in exchange for oil?
A: These are usually discussed in negotiations between countries. We expect that it will happen. It's not just about China.
Q: You recently announced your readiness to deal with the private sector on oil exports. Has the private sector entered the field of selling oil?
A: Yes, some of our oil is now being sold through the private sector.
Q: Did the breakthrough in the oil sales happen due to the private sector’s participation?
A: No, the achievement is not necessarily just for using the capacity of the private sector. To clarify how the achievement was reached, I should say that we in the NIOC have made extensive efforts in the field of marketing. One of the policies of the 13th government is to restore the markets we lost because of sanctions or certain policies.
Q: You mean, now oil is being shipped to markets that until a few months ago were among the lost markets of Iranian oil?
A: Yes. The marketing measures show that we have reactivated part of the capacity of lost markets, which cannot be named now.
Q: Do you think oil exports will witness an upward trend next [Iranian] year?
A: We are moving toward neutralizing sanctions and increasing oil sales. Sales of crude oil and gas condensates, and consequently production, have increased in the past few months, and we hope this trend will continue.