Government nixes Syria as alternative oil source

India has refused to provide a sovereign guarantee for oil imports from Syria, virtually putting paid to this source of fuel as an alternative to imports from Iran, according to a Hindustan Times report citing unnamed sources.

This is frustrating refiners looking for alternative sources of crude to hedge against possible supply disruptions from hit Iran, whose exports are reeling under US-led Western sanctions. At the same time, Syria has internal turmoil of its own, which may explain the reported government decision.

The oil ministry had hoped that the government would underwrite Syrian oil cargoes after Indian insurance firms failed to find re-insurers for shipments from a country which is also targeted by Western sanctions, according to the report.

New Delhi's stand on Syrian oil comes after it voted last month in favour of a UN resolution endorsing an Arab League plan calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

"This is true that the government has denied sovereign guarantee for import of Syrian oil. This was done because of India's vote against Syria in the United Nations," said one of the sources.

Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Oil and Natural Gas Corp, the explorer which has a stake in Syrian fields, wanted to import oil from Syria but insurance problems halted their plans, says the report.

HPCL had even engaged the Shipping Corp of India to hire a vessel to import Syrian crude.

India currently does not buy any crude oil from Syria.