China and Russia have repudiated new US sanctions on Iran, pledging to maintain trade ties with Tehran after President Donald Trump warned countries against doing business with the Islamic Republic.
“China has consistently opposed unilateral sanctions and long-armed jurisdiction,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, addressing Trump’s decision Monday to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
“China’s commercial cooperation with Iran is open and transparent, reasonable, fair and lawful, not violating any United Nations Security Council resolutions,” it said, adding “China’s lawful rights should be protected.”
Beijing has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran. It is Iran’s biggest oil customer, taking in more than 650,000 barrels per day from the country.
The world’s No. 2 economy is reportedly gearing up to take more and “vacuum up much of the Iranian oil that other nations won’t buy because of the threat of US sanctions.”
Chinese companies are also interested in Iran’s oil and gas projects.
State energy firms CNPC and Sinopec have invested billions of dollars in Iran’s giant Yadavaran and North Azadegan oil fields and eye participating in further developments of the deposits.
CNPC is also about to take over Total’s stake in the giant Iranian South Pars gas project after the French company decided to leave amid US sanctions.
Iran plans to increase the production potential of its oil fields by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the form of 34 projects, estimated to cost more than $6 billion.
Russia ‘deeply disappointed’
As many as 12 projects in Iran’s petroleum sector have been presented to Russia’s Gazprom, Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Zarubezhneft, Taftneft and Lukoil for development.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is prepared to continue its oil investment in Iran at the level of $50 billion in the face of US plans to reimpose sanctions on the Iranian oil and gas sector on November 4.
On Tuesday, Russia said it was “deeply disappointed by US steps to reimpose its national sanctions against Iran” as it pledged to do “everything necessary” to protect its shared economic interests with Tehran.
“This is a clear example of Washington violating UN Resolution 2231 (on the Iran nuclear deal) and international law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement dismissed US hopes to browbeat Iran into submission through exerting fresh pressures on the country.
“As long-term experience has shown, it will not be possible to gain concessions from Iran using pressure,” it said.
Russia called on the international community to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and “not to allow such significant achievements in multilateral diplomacy to be sacrificed in the name of American aspirations to settle political scores with Iran.”
Zarif: US cannot stop Iran’s oil exports
Trump has pledged to bring Iran’s oil exports – currently at around 2.4 million bpd – to zero but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed that the US leader will not succeed.
“If the Americans want to keep this simplistic and impossible idea in their minds they should also know its consequences,” Zarif was quoted Wednesday as telling the Iran newspaper.
“They can’t think that Iran won’t export oil and others will export,” he said.
The minister said the Americans “have assembled a war room against Iran” but Tehran “can’t get drawn into a confrontation with America by falling into this war room trap and playing on a battlefield.”
Zarif also dismissed any direct or indirect talks currently being held with the US after Trump said he wanted negotiations with Tehran on a new deal.
“Imagine negotiating now — how can we trust them?” Zarif told state broadcaster IRINN. “America has zig-zagged constantly, so now no one trusts them.”
The minister said Iran is now in a much better position than the last time when it was under Western sanctions which were lifted in early 2016 under the nuclear deal.
“There is a big difference this time,” said Zarif. “Before nobody supported Iran. But now, all the countries in the world are supporting Iran.”
Syria: US sanctions rooted in ‘arrogance’
On Tuesday, Syria also stressed its support for Iran as it “sharply condemned the American administration’s decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran.”
“These unilateral actions are illegal under international law and confirm that the US administration’s policies have a proclivity for hegemony and arrogance,” said a Foreign Ministry official, quoted by state news agency SANA.
The United States President Donald Trump has intensified pressure on the Iranian government after slapping tough economic sanctions on Tehran, whilst widening a disagreement with the European Union over a landmark nuclear accord.
On Tuesday, Washington reinstated stringent sanctions, accusing Tehran of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons – a charge Iran denies.
Iranian officials insist there has been no violation of the 2015 pact with the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia, which curbed its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
The United States withdrew from the accord in May.
In a tweet posted after the new sanctions were imposed, President Trump warned the international community that: “Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.”
The action has exacerbated an already fragile relationship between Brussels and Washington, which is reeling from a tit-for-tat tariff trade war, a row over NATO spending and immigration.
Under the new sanctions program, Iran is banned from using the U.S. dollar, and trade in metals, automobiles and coal has also be halted. American businesses trading in, pistachio nuts, Iranian carpets and caviar have had their licenses revoked.
The Iranian government has also been barred from purchasing new aircraft to replace their antiquated – and often dangerous – civilian fleet. Boeing had to abandon plans to supply more than 16 billion dollars in passenger jetliners to Iran.
Europe openly disagrees with the new sanctions, with Britain, Germany and France hoping to continue the nuclear deal, with or without U.S. involvement. An EU statement said preserving the agreement was ‘a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security.’
Brussels has also expressed willingness to support European businesses. Alistair Burt, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, said Washington has not made the right decision to impose economic sanctions on Tehran.
“I must say it’s quite good to see a British Minister – Alistair Burt – standing up and saying, we’re not going to take that lying down and sticking up for companies that want to trade with Iran,” Axworthy said.
But, with Washington also pushing foreign countries to reduce their oil imports from Iran by November, the impact of sanctions on the faltering economy and the public could be dire.
Pulling out of the 2015 agreement was a major election campaign promise for Trump, who repeatedly deemed it “the worst deal ever.”