Iranian Foreign Minister coming to India amid growing tensions with US

May 13, 2019

New Delhi:  Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is arriving here Monday evening to hold discussions with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in the backdrop  of the  US  announcement that it would not extend the exemptions granted in November last year to India and seven other countries for importing oil from the Persian Gulf nation.

The deadline of 180 days, expired on May 2. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while making the announcement of the end of exemption on April 22, warned that any nation or entity “interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”

During the  visit, Ms Swaraj and Mr Zarif would take stock of bilateral relations at a meeting tomorrow morning, especially the situation arising of US sanctions.

Mr Zarif  will be landing here at 23:45 hrs Monday , and after a night’s stay, he  leave for his  country on Tuesday afternoon after his talks with Ms Swaraj, the Ministry of External Affairs said here.

After the exemptions expired on May 2, India said it will deal with the issue based on three factors — the country’s energy security, commercial consideration and economic interests.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India was prepared to deal with the impact of the US decision.

The US, which had reimposed  sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal which was struck in 2015, had  told India and other countries to cut oil imports from the Gulf nation to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions. However, Washington had granted a six-month waiver from sanctions to eight countries, including India.

India, which is the second biggest purchaser of Iranian oil after China, had agreed to cut its monthly purchase to 1.25 million tonne or 15 million tonne in a year (300,000 barrels per day), down from 22.6 million tonne (452,000 barrels per day) bought in the 2017-18 financial year.

Iran is India’s third largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10 per cent of its total needs.

India’s ties with Iran have been growing over the last few years and during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country in 2016, the two countries  signed nearly a dozen pacts,  the most important of which  an agreement on development of Chabahar port.

The Chabahar agreement was followed by India, Iran and Afghanistan signing  a trilateral pact providing for transport of goods among the three countries through the port.

During the meeting with Mr Zarif, Ms Swaraj is also expected to discuss the tense situation in the region  which developed after  the US accused  Iran of  preparing some kind of an attack and sent Naval warships, including an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers, to the region.

Iran has warned that it would not hesitate from retaliating if attacked.

To bring down further pressure on Iran,  the Trump administration on May 8 imposed sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors, in addition to those applied on several sectors last year, including banking and oil.

IANS adds: US President Donald Trump has also abandoned the nuclear pact with Iran despite other signatories expressing their commitment to it and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certifying on 14 occasions that Iran was continuing to comply with its commitments under the agreement.

On May 8, exactly a year after the US withdrew from the agreement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the country was reducing its own commitments under the agreement, signed in Vienna in 2015 in order to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons.

Rouhani also gave a 60-day deadline to the pact’s remaining signatories to fulfill Iran’s demands and save the country’s banking system and oil trade from international sanctions.

Significantly, Pompeo on Monday made an unscheduled visit to Brussels to hold talks with European Union officials on Iran.

Pompeo, who had been scheduled to head to Russia, landed in Brussels to discuss pressing issues with EU diplomats, said a US State Department official.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt spoke in Brussels of the dangers of an accidentally-triggered conflict between the US and Iran over the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear pact signed by Iran, Russia, China, the EU, the UK, France, Germany and the US.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended,” Hunt said it was important not to push Iran back towards re-nuclearization.

The EU has taken a number of measures to counter the sanctions imposed by the US last year to isolate Iran economically.

On Monday, a joint statement issued by the High Representative of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the UK said, “we regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal from the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). We are determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran, including through the operationalisation of the special purpose vehicle “INSTEX”