Iran, India move closer on trade as EU stalls

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Iran, India move closer on trade as EU stalls

  • India recently signed a deal with Iran to buy crude in rupees rather than US dollars
  • India imports around 80 percent of its oil needs

NEW DELHI: Iran will boost trade with India as the European Union struggles to find a way to circumvent a fresh US embargo on Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tuesday.
Brussels is working on a payment mechanism to keep financial transactions flowing with Iran, after the US ditched the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran earlier this year and reintroduced a raft of sanctions on the country.
But Zarif told reporters in New Delhi that the EU’s delay in implementing the system meant Iran would look elsewhere.
“Europeans have made efforts but couldn’t... progress up to our expectations. We will expand our cooperation via various channels such as India,” Zarif said after meeting India’s transport minister, as quoted by Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA.
The EU hopes its “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) announced in September will keep the nuclear deal alive and persuade Tehran to stay on board by giving companies a way of trading with Iran without violating Washington’s sanctions.
But Brussels is struggling to find a host for the SPV and many EU companies are fearful of repercussions from US President Donald Trump’s administration.
India, which imports around 80 percent of its oil needs, recently signed a deal with Iran to buy crude in rupees rather than US dollars, helping it get around the sanctions.
Zarif added that Iran was “very happy” that the Indian government was allowing the Iranian Bank Pasargad to open a branch in India’s financial capital of Mumbai.
India also recently took over the running of part of Iran’s Chabahar Port, in the Gulf of Oman, as the countries build closer ties.
“We hope, despite US sanctions, Iran and India will have more cooperation in line with the interests of the people and the two countries,” said Zarif.


Russia's Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela's PDVSA - source

Updated 17 February 2019
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Russia's Gazprombank freezes accounts of Venezuela's PDVSA - source

MOSCOW: Russian lender Gazprombank has decided to freeze the accounts of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and halted transactions with the firm to reduce the risk of the bank falling under U.S. sanctions, a Gazprombank source told Reuters on Sunday.

While many foreign firms have been cutting their exposure to PDVSA since the sanctions were imposed, the fact that a lender closely aligned with the Russian state is following suit is significant because the Kremlin has been among Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest supporters.

“PDVSA’s accounts are currently frozen. As you’ll understand, operations cannot be carried out,” the source said. Gazprombank did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.

PDVSA brandished the story as “fake news” on its Twitter account in capital red letters, but did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters reported this month that PDVSA was telling customers of its joint ventures to deposit oil sales proceeds in its Gazprombank accounts, according to sources and an internal document, in a move to try to sideline fresh U.S. sanctions on PDVSA.

Washington says the sanctions, imposed on Jan. 28, are aimed at blocking Maduro’s access to the country’s oil revenue after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president and received widespread Western support.

Gazprombank is Russia’s third biggest lender by assets and includes among its shareholders Russian state gas company Gazprom.

The bank has held PDVSA accounts for several years. In 2013, PDVSA said it signed a deal with Gazprombank for $1 billion (£774 million) in financing for the Petrozamora company. The source said that Petrozamora accounts were frozen, too.

Russian officials have said they stand by Maduro and have condemned opposition actions as a U.S.-inspired ploy to usurp power in Caracas.

But Russian firms find themselves in a quandary, caught between a desire to endorse the Kremlin line and back Maduro, and the fear that by doing so they could expose themselves to secondary U.S. sanctions which would harm their businesses.