Greek-Iranian meeting for oil debt, supply deal this Friday

Greek officials are scheduled to commence negotiations with Tehran for a new well-priced crude supply deal as well as debt settlement of older orders pre-dating the western-imposed sanctions on Iran.

Indicative of Iran’s interest to secure a new crude supply deal in Greece, the country’s deputy oil minister, Amir Hossein Zamaninia, will visit Athens this Friday, just five days after the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

The Iranian official will hold talks with his Greek counterpart Panos Skourletis as well as ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) managing director Grigoris Stergioulis. The Greek refinery contends the debt figure owed to Iranian state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is worth under 600 million dollars. The level is disputed by the two sides. A follow-up round of talks is expected to take place in Tehran next week.

Prior to the western-imposed sanctions on Iran, ELPE and fellow Greek refinery Motor Oil were supplied an average of 100,000 barrels of Iranian crude daily, covering 30 percent of the local market’s needs.

New supply deals with established trading partners, such as the Greek companies, as well as firms in Italy, will pave the way for Iran’s wider new dealings in the European Union. A new supply deal would also benefit Greece. Besides the relatively lower crude prices expected to be offered by Iran, the Greek government will surely talk of having succeeded to actualize its already-declared multi-dimensional energy policy.

However, Greece will first need to settle the outstanding debt amount before the Iranian state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) may consider resuming crude supply to ELPE and Motor Oil.

Based on the euro-dollar exchange rate at the time of the western-imposed sanctions on Iran, which disrupted international banking transactions for payments to Iranian companies, the amount owed by the two Greek refineries was around 800 million dollars.

According to an ELPE official, it remains to be seen whether Iranian officials will base the outstanding debt on older current exchange rates, and whether charges for the delayed payment will be added to the bill.

Athens will push to discuss the issue in quantitative terms and in dollar-based terms as prices have dropped drastically in recent years.

The negotiations are expected to be a lengthy, complex and politically shaded process. ELPE officials said a Greek proposal will be tabled during Friday’s talks for the establishment of a committee to focus on the issue.

Preliminary talks between Greek and Iranian officials had begun many months prior to the lifting of the sanctions on Iran. News had leaked that the debt settlement could entail NIOC acquiring a stake of ELPE. It had been said that Iran did not want the money owed to NIOC to enter the country, prefering instead that it remains abroad in the form of investments. The Latsis Group, which controls 42 percent of ELPE, had denied these reports. The Greek state, which holds a 35 percent stake in ELPE, had not.