US asks China to reduce oil imports from Iran

The US 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 US and European officials.

US-Iran negotiations of a new version of the nuclear deal—which would see US 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 US 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.”

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“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 US sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s oil exports and oil industry.

The largest Asian economy has always said it opposes the “unilateral” US 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.

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