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The United States has approached China about the latter’s crude oil imports from Iran, seeking to pressure Iran into nuclear deal negotiations through its biggest oil client, Reuters has reported, citing U.S. and European officials.
U.S.-Iran negotiations of a new version of the nuclear deal—which would see U.S. sanctions lifted—ended in an impasse earlier this year as Iranians voted for a new president and government. Iran had signaled it would return to the negotiating table once the government took office, but this has already happened, and the negotiations have not been resumed.
“We are aware of the purchases that Chinese companies are making of Iranian oil,” one U.S. source told Reuters, adding, “We have used our sanctions authorities to respond to Iranian sanctions evasion, including those doing business with China, and will continue to do so if necessary.”
“However, we have been approaching this diplomatically with the Chinese as part of our dialogue on Iran policy and think that, in general, this is a more effective path forward to address our concerns,” the source also said.
The European source said China’s close relations with—and support for—Iran has become a significant point of contention with the West.
Meanwhile, the close relations are getting closer. Earlier this month, Iran’s new oil minister Javad Owji met with a top official from the China National Petroleum Corporation to discuss the expansion of bilateral relations.
China is Iran’s biggest trade partner and one of the very few countries still importing some crude oil from Iran despite the U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s oil exports and oil industry.
The largest Asian economy has always said it opposes the “unilateral” U.S. sanctions against oil producers and continues to buy crude, especially from Iran. Iran’s oil sales to China are one of the last remaining revenue streams for the Islamic Republic.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.
strong enough to do what they please. Iran is a key part of the new silk road which was designed to counter the US control of the seas. The trillions of dollars we have invested in our military won us only debts.
From the start, China made it clear that it opposes the “unilateral” U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela and continues to buy crude from both. And with escalating tension with the United States, China has been openly defying US sanctions and taking every chance to undermine them.
Iran’s accession to full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) signals the increasingly closer relations between Iran and China. This doesn’t bode well for US sanctions or for any negotiations with the United States over the nuclear deal. In fact, the SOC membership can only toughen Iran’s stand vis-à-vis the nuclear deal.
A lifting of US sanctions against Iran will never see the light of day soon or ever because of the positions of the United States and Iran are irreconcilable.
Iran insists on a lifting of the sanctions first before it agrees to negotiate a new nuclear deal with the United States. It also refuses any limitations on its nuclear and missile development programmes. This the United States can’t agree to.
Iran has been successfully evading US sanctions and exporting an estimated 1.5 mbd two thirds of which went to China and the balance to India, Turkey and a score of other countries.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London