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Turkey slams US threat to stop waivers on importing Iranian crude oil

Mevlut Cavusoglu used his social media account to condemn the US move to end waivers on Iranian oil sanctions.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister tweeted on Monday: “We do not accept unilateral sanctions and impositions on how we build our relationship with our neighbors.” Turkey said the move by Washington would not serve regional peace and stability, but punish Iranian people.

In his tweet, Cavusoglu tagged the US State Department and Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State.

On Monday the US declared it would end previously granted sanctions exemptions to some eight countries so that they cannot import Iranian crude oil anymore.

If those countries continue to import oil from the Islamic Republic after May 2, companies in those countries will be subjected to being locked out of the US financial system.

By doing so, the US aims at “bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero” in an attempt to cut the regime’s principal source of revenue.

The move came after President Donald J. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year. At the time, America announced a list of 12 demands to be met by the Iranian regime before the US lifts punishing sanctions against it.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, however, dismissed the demands as “not acceptable.”

Later in November, the Trump administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Iran in a bid to force it back to the negotiating table, with granting waivers to eight countries.

With six-month waivers, until May 2019, those eight countries were allowed to continue importing limited quantities of crude oil from Iran, giving them more time to find alternative energy sources.

Temporary waivers were also aimed at preventing a shock to global oil markets from a sudden removal of Iranian oil.

Three of eight countries – Greece, Italy, and Taiwan – have already stopped importing oil from Iran.

However, the other five – China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey – were expecting Trump’s extension of waivers, lobbying for that purpose.

“We will no longer grant any exemptions. With the announcement today, we have made clear our seriousness of purpose. We have made our demands very clear to the Ayatollah and his cronies,” said Pompeo at a press conference on Monday, referring to last May’s demands.

The demands list requires the Iranian regime to restrict its nuclear program beyond the point it had accepted during the 2015 accord with the US. The list also calls on Iran to stop its ballistic missile program. Another demand is the release of US citizens imprisoned in Iran.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Pompeo stated their goal was to deprive “the outlawed regime” of the funds it has allegedly used to destabilize the Middle East for a long time, pointing to Iran’s money laundering and financing terrorism.

Iran’s response to the US announcement came from its foreign ministry, calling the US sanctions “illegal”.

“Iran did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers given to the sanctions,” the ministry said in a statement on its official website.

The US step was met with outrage from China as well, calling it more evidence of US “unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction.”

On the other side, Israel and Saudi Arabia hailed the US move, with the latter’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih ensuring “the global oil market does not go out of balance.”

Iran has been economically hit hard since November last year, as the Iranian president declared in February his country was facing its most difficult economic conditions.

Iran is the fourth-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), an intergovernmental organization, which aims at coordinating and unifying petroleum policies among its member states.

The Iranian oil export was more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) before the US sanctions, while of late it has been around 1 million bpd.

According to the Iranian Oil Ministry, European countries are currently not importing Iranian crude.

Thomson Reuters further reported Iran’s top Asian customers – China, India, Japan, and South Korea – have collectively halved their imports of Iranian oil in 2018.

Analysts say Iran will be intensifying consultations with its customer countries to work out sanctions-busting alternative ways for oil trade, such as trading through companies from customer countries not tied to the US financial system.

Alternatively, Iran will also be using its old strategy of threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s busiest transit lane for seaborne oil shipments, if it is barred from exporting oil.

Hence, Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Navy, repeated the Iranian threat on Monday, saying: “If we are banned from using the Strait of Hormuz, we will close it.”

Turkey’s $9 billion-amount trade volume with Iran is largely based on imported Iranian raw petroleum materials and natural gas.

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