International oil companies operating at Beirut’s airport have been warned against fueling airlines that are affected by the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, Lebanese officials told The Daily Star Friday.
Asked if Iranian airlines would be prohibited from stopping at the airport, caretaker Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, said, “To stop? No. To refuel? By sanctions, yes.”
A senior airport official said international oil companies were notified after Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran Monday to force Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement and to end what it called the sponsoring and financing of terrorist activity.
These measures mean that bodies dealing with the sanctioned Iranian entities would be penalized.
The airport official said “some” of the oil providers were informed by internal company decisions, but Fenianos confirmed that none of the providers would be allowed to refuel the sanctioned carriers. The decision has been made “for sure by their companies,” not by the Lebanese government, Fenianos added.
Local media reports identified the oil companies that were notified as Liquigaz, Coral Oil, Total and W-H-Elfmed. The Daily Star could not independently confirm which companies were affected.
According to the airport official, this step is “very small [compared] to what may come.” The source described the coming sanctions as possibly having an effect on “more than just oil” refueling at the airport.
The airport’s Civil Aviation Authority has not yet been officially notified of the new sanctions and will withhold taking a stance until it is. “This needs to be studied and a decision needs to made on a national level in coordination with the government,” the airport official said. Fenianos confirmed that the government “didn’t make [its] decision yet” on whether or not to ensure the implementation of the new sanctions.
The minister said the government is “studying all the circumstances. It’s not easy at all, we have so many points to discuss and lots of opinions.”
However, the airport source denied that airport authorities were ordered to refuse requests to refuel all Iranian planes. “Only the airlines on the sanctions list are the ones being cautioned against,” the airport source said.
Rafik Hariri International Airport Lebanon’s only functioning passenger airport has been at the center of controversy, with Israeli and American news outlets claiming that Hezbollah and Iran smuggle arms and components for constructing weapons into Lebanon via the airport.
A Fox News report alleged that on July 9, a Boeing 747 left Tehran and took an “uncharacteristic flight path,” stopping in Damascus before continuing on to Beirut, where it landed “shortly after 4 p.m. local time.” The report cited the flight-tracking smartphone app FlightRadar24 and Google Maps to support its claim. Lebanon’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation later confirmed that Boeing 747s had traveled from Tehran to Damascus and Beirut, but said they were cargo flights that then continued on to Doha.
Fox News also claimed a flight carried out the same operation on Aug. 2, but the DGCA said that that plane, too, had landed in Beirut from Tehran “empty” and took off “filled with livestock after approval from Qatari civil aviation authorities.”
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