EXCLUSIVE U.S. has reached out to China about cutting oil imports from Iran, officials say

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WASHINGTON/PARIS, Sept 28 (Businesshala) – The United States is diplomatically approaching China about reducing Iran’s purchases of crude, US and European officials said on Tuesday, as Washington denounces Tehran in 2015. Wants to persuade to resume talks about reviving the atom. deal.

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Iranian oil purchases by Chinese companies are believed to have helped keep Iran’s economy afloat despite US sanctions designed to prevent such sales to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program. have been done.

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“We are aware of the purchase of Iranian oil by Chinese companies,” a senior US official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We have used our sanctions authorities to respond to the evasion of Iranian sanctions, including those doing business with China, and will continue to do so if necessary,” he said.

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“However, we are engaging diplomatically with China as part of our talks on Iran policy and think that in general, this is a more effective way to address our concerns,” the official said. “

Separately, a European official said this was one of the issues raised by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman when she visited China in late July.

The European official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of nuclear diplomacy, said China is protecting Iran and suggested one of the main issues for the West is how much oil China is buying from Iran. Is.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on statements from US and European officials.

Commodity analytics firm Kepler estimates that year-over-year Chinese oil imports from Iran averaged 553,000 barrels per day through August.

Indirect US-Iranian talks about renegotiating the 2015 deal that began in April were postponed in June, two days after radical Ibrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s president, replacing Hassan Rouhani. , whose administration negotiated the agreement.

Under the agreement, Iran agreed to impose limits on its uranium enrichment program, a possible route to developing fissile material for nuclear weapons, in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions from the US, the United Nations and the European Union. Iran has denied the demand for an atomic bomb.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal and reimposed harsh economic sanctions that crippled Iran’s economy, although Tehran continues to sell illegal oil to customers, including Chinese companies.

After waiting for nearly a year, Iran responded by repealing Trump’s agreement to begin some nuclear activities, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump’s successor President Joe Biden has said he was putting “diplomacy first” with Iran but would be willing to turn to other unspecified options if talks fail.

A French presidential official told reporters on Tuesday that Iran should return to the Vienna talks on the United States and that Iran should resume compliance with the agreement to avoid a diplomatic escalation that would threaten talks. Can put

“We need to remain in close contact and united with all members of the JCPOA, including Russia and China, at this stage,” the French official said.

“In particular, we expect the Chinese to express themselves and act more resolutely. We need to put pressure on Iran, which is inevitable,” the French official said.

Iran’s foreign minister said as recently as Friday that he would return to talks on resuming compliance with the nuclear deal “very soon”, but did not give a specific date.

It is not clear how receptive China may be to any US diplomatic proposal on Iran.

With little progress on issues ranging from human rights to transparency on the origins of COVID-19, US-China relations have plunged this year to their worst in decades.

At a September 24 briefing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman put the load on the United States rather than Iran.

“Which triggered a new round of tensions in the Iranian nuclear situation, the US must redress its erroneous policy of maximizing pressure on Iran, lifting all illegal sanctions on Iran and taking long-term jurisdictional measures on third parties.” should, and should work, resume talks and get results as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said according to a ministry transcript.

Reporting by Arshad Mohamed in Washington and John Irish in Paris; Additional reporting by David Gaffen in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool

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