Pompeo Allows Sanctions Exception for Iran Port Development

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran Iran

Iran late past year inaugurated the port on the Indian Ocean which provides a key supply route to landlocked Afghanistan and allows India to bypass its arch-rival Pakistan.

Iran has plans to link the port by railway to Zahedan on the Pakistani border up to Mashhad in the northeast.

Representatives of India, Afghanistan and Iran met a little more than two weeks ago in New Delhi, despite looming USA sanctions, to discuss operationalization of the port, which is seen as key to connect India and Afghanistan to Iran and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

The United States will exempt from sanctions the development of Chabahar along with an attached railway project and Iranian petroleum shipments into Afghanistan, the State Department said.

On Tuesday, the State Department clarified that Chabahar and an Afghanistan specific railway project (under INSTC) would be kept out of the sanctions for the goal of "development" of Afghanistan.

A convinced U.S. administration told India Today, "The President's South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan's economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India. These powerful sanctions directly target Iran's banking, energy and shipping sectors".

This waiver will bring some measure of relief to India, which had been discussing a sanctions exemption for Chabahar having signed an agreement with Iran and Afghanistan in May 2016 for the port's development.

The sanctions are meant to exert pressure on Iran to renegotiate its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Trump walked away from this year.

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries - India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey - were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed "significant reduction" in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.

Asserting that the US' "desperation" was highlighted in their move to include closed companies in the sanctions, Zarif said that the anti-Iran move was mostly criticised and opposed by the worldwide community and that only a handful of nations like Israel and others supported the move.

The exemptions were linked to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, to which India has been a key contributor, a role that was recognised and reinforced by president Donald Trump in the South Asia strategy he announced in August 2017, earmarking an expanded role for New Delhi.

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