BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 A.M.) – The Venezuelan military will escort and defend the Iranian tankers that are delivering fuel to the Bolivarian Republic when they enter Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Wednesday.
During a state television interview, Padrino said the escort would “welcome them in and thank the Iranian people for their solidarity and cooperation,” Reuters reported.
Furthermore, Padrino said that the Venezuelan government had been in contact with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami to ensure the safety of the transport.
The U.S. sanctions against Venezuela have crippled the South American country’s economy, despite being rich in oil and other resources.
However, despite being rich in oil, Venezuela was forced to shut down its last oil refinery, which later caused a major fuel shortage.
In response to this fuel shortage, Iran has sent five tankers to Venezuela to help alleviate their South American ally’s economic woes.
Last Thursday, a US official said that the country believes with a “high degree of certainty” that Venezuela is paying Iran tons of gold in exchange for fuel.
“It is not only unwelcome by the United States but it’s unwelcome by the region, and we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official said, Reuters reported.
The official did not outline what measures are being considered but said that all options would be presented to US President Donald Trump.
On Friday, an Iranian news agency warned the US against taking action against several Iranian-flagged tankers transporting fuel to Venezuela.
“If the United States, just like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk and that will certainly not go without repercussion,” Iran’s Nour News Agency said, citing reports that US warships were en route to intercept the tankers in the Caribbean.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi on Sunday also warned that “the US itself will have to suffer repercussions that arise out of any unthinking measure [that it could take]” against Venezuela-bound Iranian fuel tankers.
“Should the Americans take any measure against our vessels’ free and legal movement around, they would face our decisive response,” Mousavi told reporters in Tehran.
Last month, Tehran was slammed for helping Caracas restart the broken catalytic cracking unit at the huge Cardon refinery.