China protests US sanctions threat for buying Iran oil

China on Tuesday strongly protested against a threat by the US to impose sanctions on countries that continue buying Iranian oil after Washington decided not to reissue waivers for oil imports from the Middle Eastern country.

Beijing urges Washington to respect its interests and concerns as well as “refrain from actions that are detrimental to Chinese rights and to global continued efforts to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a press briefing.

“The international community, including China, engages in normal energy cooperation with Iran under the framework of international law, that is legitimate and reasonable and should be respected and protected,” Geng was quoted as saying by Efe news.

He said that China had lodged a formal complaint with the US for what it described as “wrongful actions” and accused Washington of increasing “turbulences” in the Middle East and the global energy market, for which Iranian crude oil exports were “of great significance”.

“We urge the US to take responsible and constructive attitudes instead of the contrary,” Geng added.

The Chinese spokesperson said that his country’s reaction to the decision of the Donald Trump-led administration was “the common position of the vast majority of the international community”.

The US threatened on Monday to impose sanctions on India, China and Turkey if they continued buying crude oil from Iran after it suspended the six-month waivers granted to eight countries that allowed them to continue importing limited quantities of crude oil from Iran.

Trump decided not to renew the 180-day waiver, which will end on May 2, saying the move “aims to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue”, according to a statement issued by the White House.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump increased pressure on Tehran and in May 2018, he fulfilled his electoral promise of withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear accord reached with Iran by the previous administration of Barack Obama along with five world powers.

The agreement, signed in 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – plus Germany, placed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in order to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons, in return for lifting sanctions that had strangled its economy.

As a result of the tightening of sanctions, Iran’s oil exports have fallen to some 800,000 barrels a day – from the previous 2.5 million – while the national currency, the rial, has fallen sharply.