BEIJING OPPOSES U.S. SANCTIONS ON CHINA FIRM OVER IRAN OIL
MANAGUA, July 23, (Agencies): Iran’s foreign minister warned the West on Monday against “starting a confl ict,” saying it was not seeking confrontation after its military seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz last week. London described the seizure of the Stena Impero as “state piracy” and on Monday called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. Speaking in Nicaragua, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said Iran had taken measures against the ship to implement international law, not in retaliation for the British capture of an Iranian tanker two weeks earlier in Gibraltar.
“Starting a conflict is easy, ending it would be impossible,” Zarif told reporters after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart. “It’s important for everybody to realize, it’s important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation,” he said, referring to the front-runner to become Britain’s new prime minister.
“Iran wants to have normal relations based on mutual respect,” he added. Zarif said Iran acted when it observed that the UK ship did not follow regulations. “The UK ship had turned down its signal for more time than it was allowed to (and) was passing through the wrong channel, endangering the safety and security of shipping and navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, for which we are responsible,” Zarif said.
In contrast, he described the seizure of the Iranian ship as “piracy” and “violation of international law” by British and Gibraltar authorities. China strongly opposes US sanctions on a Chinese energy firm accused of violating curbs on Iran’s oil sector levied over Tehran’s nuclear programme, its foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The United States sanctioned the company, Zhuhai Zhenrong Co Ltd, because it “knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase or acquisition of crude oil from Iran”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday. Beijing firmly opposed the sanctions, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, adding that China’s cooperation with Iran was normal under international law.
“We urge the US to correct this wrongdoing and stop its illegal sanctions on companies and individuals,” she told reporters at a daily briefing. “The US has neglected the legitimate rights of all countries and randomly applies sanctions, this is in violation of international law,” Hua added. Japan’s top government spokesman said on Tuesday that there was no change in the country’s stance that it was not considering sending its Self-Defence Forces for a US-proposed maritime coalition in the Middle East. Asked if there was a change in the position previously stated by Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it was “as Minister Iwaya said.” US national security adviser John Bolton on Monday met Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Iwaya and national security adviser Shotaro Yachi. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that before making a decision on joining the United States, Japan wants to fulfil what it sees as a unique role it has to play in reducing tension.
Iran has reassured Iraq that there will be freedom of international maritime navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, Iraq’s oil ministry said on Tuesday. Iran communicated this to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi during a visit by him to Tehran on Monday, the ministry said in a statement. “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (gave) reassurances to the Iraqi delegation… around guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz and respect for international law guaranteeing that,” the statement said.
Representatives from the nations that are still parties to the shaky Iran nuclear deal plan to meet in Vienna on Sunday to see to what extent the agreement can be salvaged in the wake of the United States pulling out and Iran exceeding some of the uranium enrichment thresholds the deal set. The European Union said in a statement on Tuesday that the meeting of China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and chaired by the EU “will examine issues linked to the implementation of the (nuclear deal) in all its aspects.” Iran has begun openly exceeding the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure Europe into offsetting the economic pain of US sanctions. Amid the heightened tensions, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. Iran observes all US ships in the Gulf region and has an archive of images of their daily movements, the head of Iran’s navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said on Tuesday, according to the Young Journalists Club news site.
Iran and the United States came to the brink of war last month after the Islamic Republic shot down a US drone, nearly prompting a retaliatory attack which US President Donald Trump called off at the last minute. Tensions have also spiked between Iran and Britain after the Islamic Republic seized a British-flagged tanker last Friday because it had collided with a fishing vessel, according to Iranian officials. British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in early July, accusing it of violating sanctions on Syria.
“We observe all enemy ships, particularly (those of) America, point-by-point from their origin until the moment they enter the region,” Khanzadi said, noting that images were recorded using Iranian drones. “We have complete images and a large archive of the daily and moment-by-moment traffic of the coalition forces and America.” Iran will hold joint naval exercises with allied countries for the first time by the end of the Iranian calendar year, which is in March 2020, Khanzadi said. He did not specify which countries might take part in the exercise.
The United States has sanctioned Chinese state-run energy company Zhuhai Zhenrong Co Ltd for allegedly violating restrictions imposed on Iran’s oil sector, Pompeo said in a speech on Monday. “We’ve said that we will sanction any sanctionable behavior, and we mean it,” Pompeo said in a speech in Florida in which he announced the move. It comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the West as well as between the United States and China, which have been engaged in a major trade war.