German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
Source: Press TV
The German Foreign Minister has called on Iran to show restraint after Tehran threatened member states of the European Union with an immediate cutoff of oil exports to the bloc.
In an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Guido Westerwelle claimed that the crisis-hit EU would not allow Iran to push it into a corner with a potential cut in oil supplies.
During their latest meeting in Brussels on January 23, EU foreign ministers reached an agreement to ban oil imports from Iran, freeze the country's central bank's assets within EU, and ban sales of diamonds, gold and other precious metals to Iran.
While EU sanctions will enter into force after a delay of six months, Iranian lawmakers are considering a plan to enforce an immediate ban on all oil exports to European countries.
Referring to escalating rhetoric between Iran and EU, the German Foreign Minister added that Iranian leaders hold "the key to reducing tensions in their hands."
"We will find ways in the EU to compensate for delivery stoppages," he said.
The EU imported some 600,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil in the first 10 months of last year -- equivalent to nearly 20 percent of Iran's exports.
Some EU members are seeking grace periods of between one and 12 months to allow them to find alternative supplies. Greece, which depends heavily on Iranian crude, is pushing for the longest delay while Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany say they need a maximum period of three months.
The United States, Israel and their European allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to impose four rounds of international and a series of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran has a right to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.