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Japan, South Korea Halt Iran Oil Imports

Three major Iran oil importers have stopped buying from the sanctioned country ahead of the expiry sanction waivers granted to eight such countries, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said as quoted by Reuters.

“In November, we granted eight oil waivers to avoid a spike in the price of oil. I can confirm today three of those importers are now at zero,” Hook told media without naming the three countries.

Two of the three are most likely Japan and South Korea, which both suspended their purchases of Iranian oil well ahead of the reimposition of the U.S. sanctions in November in anticipation of the waivers they scored with Washington. These waivers, however, did not restart imports of Iranian crude immediately. Eventually, Japan and South Korea restarted imports of Iranian crude in January, for a couple of months.

Japan is currently negotiating an extension of the November waiver and so is South Korea. India is also trying to secure permissions from Washington to continue buying Iranian crude. China has indicated it has no plans to stop importing oil from Iran.

There have been reports the U.S. will extend the waivers to at least four of the eight original countries granted exemptions from the sanctions in order to avoid a price shock that would ultimately hurt the Trump administration’s popularity at home. Hook, however, reiterated the “path to zero” goal.

“There are better market conditions for us to accelerate our path to zero,” he said. “We are not looking to grant any waivers or exceptions to our sanctions regime.”

“This has denied the regime access to well over $10 billion in (oil) revenue - a loss of at least $30 million a day.” The official added the sanctions had reduced Iranian oil exports by as much as 1.5 million bpd since May last year.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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