‘India Will Not Completely Halt Iranian Oil Imports’

India will not completely halt Iranian oil imports and will finalize its strategy on crude purchases from Tehran after a meeting with top U.S. officials next week, a senior government official said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will hold high-level talks with India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on September 6, in what is known as a 2+2 dialogue.

“Definitely we are not going to zero” (purchases), said the official, who has direct knowledge of India’s oil purchase policy and did not wish to be identified.

When asked if more clarity on India’s Iranian oil purchases would emerge after the dialogue, the official said “yes, that is the highest level of meeting we will have with the U.S.”

The United States is pushing all countries to halt oil imports from Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers and ordered a re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran.

India, Iran’s top oil buyer after China, has so far not decided on the size of any cut to Iranian imports and continues to seek a waiver from the United States.

Trump has threatened that anyone trading with Iran will not do business with America.

U.S. sanctions on Iran’s energy sector are set to be re-imposed after a 180-day “wind-down period” ending on November 4.
Several countries that were involved in the 2015 nuclear deal had attempted to lessen the blow of fresh sanctions on Iran, and urged their firms not to pull out.

During the previous round of sanctions, India was one of the few countries that continued to buy Iranian oil, although it had to reduce imports as shipping, insurance and banking channels were choked off due to the European and U.S. sanctions.

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