Iran is in talks to sell oil to Egypt as part of a broader push to make up for lost European Union sales, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed officials on both sites.
Such a deal would mark a renewed engagement between the two countries, and is likely to anger Washington as it would be in violation of the sanctions the US has imposed on Tehran in hopes of stunting its nuclear program.
According to the report, Tehran has approached Cairo to sell 2 million barrels of oil – worth over $200 million.
The barrels are part of a stock of unsold Iranian crude that has been stuck in the Egyptian port of Sidi Kerir because of the international sanctions on Tehran, the newspaper said, citing a source familiar with the deal.
An Iranian oil official said that the two sides have negotiated the matter, although the deal is far from certain.
"Between Iran and Egypt, there is some discussion. There is the idea they (will) import some oil from Iran," the official was quoted as saying. He declined to be named because the talks are confidential.
"It\’s very preliminary. It has not been completed," he added.
Last week Egyptian Oil Minister Osama Kamal told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper that Cairo has "no objection" to importing and refining Iranian oil.
The talks appear to mark an attempt by Iran to overcome international isolation and find new markets for its oil; an embargo imposed by the EU and US pressure on the Islamic Republic\’s Asian clients are said to have halved its crude exports.
Last month, Egypt\’s president, Mohammed Morsi, attended the Nonaligned Movement summit in Tehran, the first visit by an Egyptian leader in decades.
Tehran cut ties with Cairo after its Islamic revolution in 1979 due to Egypt\’s peace treaty with Israel. Iran hasn\’t delivered any oil to Egypt in the 33 years since.
It remains unclear whether the talks could lead to a trade agreement, considering that such a deal would imperil Egypt\’s ties with the US. Cairo is hoping to get $1 billion in debt relief from Washington.
Iran and Egypt are also at odds over Syria, after Morsi recently described President Bashar Assad\’s regime – Tehran\’s ally – as oppressive and illegitimate.