US contacts with China regarding halting oil imports from Iran, officials say

US and European diplomats close to the matter stated that Washington has made contact with Beijing through diplomatic channels about cutting the latter's purchase of Iranian crude oil.

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On Tuesday, Western officials who are familiar with the matter stated that the US has communicated with China through diplomatic channels regarding reducing the latter’s oil imports from Iran. The move reportedly came within the scope of Washington’s attempts to push Tehran to return to the negotiation table settled to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

From the US perspective, it is believed that Chinese companies’ purchase of Iranian crude oil helps Iran’s economy to cope with challenges derived from US sanctions that are implemented to push Iran to stop its nuclear program.

Asking to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the matter, a senior US official said, “We are aware of the purchases of Iranian oil that Chinese companies are making.”

Stating that they have used their sanction card as a response against Iranian moves to abscond sanctions, the US official added, “we would continue to do so if necessary, including those doing business with China.”

The official also noted that they prefer to do this in diplomatic ways in accordance with the shared views with China on Iran policy. According to him, following such a way is more effective to address their concerns.

Meanwhile, a European official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stated that the issue was at the briefcase of US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, during her visit to China in late July. Saying that China has been safeguarding Iran, the official claimed that one of the biggest concerns for the West is the amount of oil China is purchasing from Iran.

China has purchased Iranian oil on an average of 553,000 barrels per day through August, according to commodity analytics firm Kpler’s calculations.

A French official, on the other hand, urged Iran to return to the nuclear negotiations as soon as possible. Speaking to Reuters, the French official said, “We need, in this phase, to stay in close contact and closely united with all of the members of the JCPOA, including the Russians and the Chinese.”

Stating that Iran must be taken under pressure, the French official added, “in particular, we expect the Chinese to express themselves and act in a more determined way.”

On Friday, Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, stated that his country would return to negotiations very soon, without giving any specific date.

On the other hand, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson made a statement holding responsible the US rather than Iran over the stalemate in the nuclear talks at the briefing on September 24.

In the statement, it was said, “Like the one that started the new round of tensions in the Iranian nuclear situation, the US should re-address its wrong policy of maximum pressure on Iran, lift all illegal sanctions on Iran and measures of long-arm jurisdiction on third parties, and work to resume negotiations and achieve outcomes at an early date.”

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