Pompeo Allows Sanctions Exception for Chabahar Port

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The sanctions cover Iran's banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington expected all countries to eventually reduce their oil imports from Iran to zero.

In addition, Afghanistan will be allowed to continue importing Iranian petroleum products, the spokesman said.

The move by the Donald Trump administration is considered as an endorsement by Washington of India's major role in the development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of vast strategic importance for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.

Zahedan is also in Iran but closer to the Afghanistan border. "These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan's growth and humanitarian relief", said the US State Department Spokesperson.

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

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The sanctions exception granted to the Chabahar project aims to further U.S. ties with Afghanistan and India "as we execute a policy of maximum pressure to change the Iranian regime's destabilizing policies in the region and beyond", the State Department spokesman said. Reacting to the Trump administration's decision, U.S. experts said it was a "right move".

India has poured $2 billion into Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led overthrow of the Taliban regime, which was also opposed by Iran.

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. It understands India's national security interests.

Chabahar and INSTC are important strategic projects for India and Afghanistan. "Where Chabahar is critical to India's access to and assistance towards ensuring a stable Afghanistan, India's energy needs require a basket of energy suppliers", Pande said.

"We have weathered hard times in the face of 40 years of American hostility relying exclusively on our own resources, and today we and our partners across the globe will ensure that our people are least affected by this indiscriminate assault", he said.

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