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AKIPRESS.COM - Amid rising tensions between the European Union and Moscow over Ukraine, Iranian oil officials have repeatedly said Tehran is ready to supply natural gas to Europe, which currently gets 30 percent of its gas imports from Russia.
The offer by Iran, which has the world's second largest natural-gas reserves after Russia, might seem surprising when the EU currently bans the import of Iranian natural gas as part of sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program, according to RFE/RL.
But Iran may hope the energy offer will add incentives for lifting the international sanctions as Tehran and world powers hold talks in Vienna this week aimed at solving the nuclear crisis.
Ghoncheh Tazimi, a scholar at SOAS in London, says "Iran's case has been somewhat strengthened with the Ukraine crisis" because Tehran is "able to shape the future energy market" and help Europe diversify away from Russia.
She adds, Iran knows that "energy has always been Russia's bargaining chip and is Europe's Achilles heel."
So far, Tehran has not directly tied the offer to the nuclear talks.
Instead, the offer has been made by oil officials in Tehran who have progressively fleshed it out over recent weeks.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said May 3 that "as a country that has the capacity to supply gas in large volumes, Iran is always willing to export natural gas to Europe via pipeline or in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG)."
On May 14, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs Ali Majedi suggested Europe could import Iranian gas by pipeline through Turkey and that the level of exports could range from 4 million cubic meters per day to 50.
He also proposed a second pipeline route through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and a third pipeline route through Armenia, Georgia, and under the Black Sea.
There has been no response yet from Western powers to the offer. Nor has there been one from Russia, which has every reason to be equally surprised.