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Russia, China tighten ties with Iran

Astana, Kazakhstan: Russia and China moved Thursday to extend their economic influence in Iran, while Europeans are finding it harder to ignore efforts by Washington to isolate Tehran economically.

In one of the most concrete moves yet against renewed US efforts to choke off Iran economically, a Russian-led trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signaled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.

Meanwhile, Iran´s oil minister said that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran if the French energy giant pulls out.

The fate of Total´s participation in the gas project demonstrates the difficulty the European Union faces in resisting Washington´s move as European firms stand to lose much more from busting US sanctions.

Earlier this month US President Donald Trump´s controversially pulled Washington out of an international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for easing economic sanctions.

China, Russia and EU members Britain, France and Germany were also signatories of the 2015 pact, opposed Washington´s abandonment of the deal which Iran had respected.

But companies around the world now face a difficult choice as Washington has previously slapped huge fines on firms which bust US sanctions.

This week the EU launched work on a plan to keep the nuclear deal alive and French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that one reason is “so that our businesses can remain” in Iran.

However Total has indicated it will go forward with the investment only if it wins an exemption from Washington on the sanctions.

Other European firms are likely to make a similar calculation that the US market is worth much more to them than Iran.

Danish shipping giant Maersk Tankers said Thursday it would cease its activities in Iran, while German insurer Allianz has also announced it plans to wind down its business deals there.

– Less to lose –

Meanwhile Russia, one of the strongest defenders of the Iran nuclear deal, tightened its trade ties with Tehran.

In the Kazakh capital Astana, the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran that lowers tariffs on hundreds of goods.

The bloc that also comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, also plans to begin three years of talks with Iran that aim to create a free trade zone.

Russian firms have less to lose from bucking US sanctions. Many major Russian companies are already operating under tightening US sanctions over Moscow´s seizure of Crimea and its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Russian companies also traded with Iran when US sanctions were in place before the deal.

“They are used to working within legal and economic constraints,” Igor Delanoe, an analyst at the Franco-Russian Observatory group, said recently.

“The US has systematically forced Iran to turn more towards Russia and China.”

– Resistance to comply –

Beijing also signalled that it intends to continue trading with Iran.

“Under the prerequisite of not violating its international obligations, the Chinese side will continue to carry out normal and transparent practical cooperation with Iran,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

He added that “the Chinese government always opposes the unilateral sanctions and the so-called long-arm jurisdiction that any country takes according to its domestic laws.”

The US says its sanctions apply to any transactions that are conducted in dollars, which are used in most international transactions, in particular in trading of crude oil.

But China has for years been working to increase trade using its currency and in March a yuan-denominated oil contract was launched in Shanghai.

“With trade skirmishes between the US and China and all kinds of political issues, I see resistance from Chinese crude buyers to comply” with US sanctions, said Victor Shum, vice president of the Energy group at IHS Markit, on CNBC TV.

Chinese companies were involved in at least $33 billion of infrastructure projects in China as of June last year, with Chinese government-linked institutions providing much of the financing using euros and yuan to avoid US sanctions.

SOURCE: https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/317959-russia-china-tighten-ties-with-iran

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CPEC to further enhance growing Pakistan-Iran relations

ISLAMABAD: The Ambassador of Pakistan to Iran Asif Durrani has said that the successful completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would further boost Pakistan-Iran relations as a transit hub for the region.

He said this during a reception to commemorate the 78th Pakistan’s National Day in Tehran, said a message received here on Wednesday.

Highlighting the myriad challenges that Pakistan faced in recent years, Ambassador Durrani said that Pakistan has sacrificed more than 70,000 of its citizens including armed forces personnel and law enforcement agencies in fighting terrorists and has succeeded in defeating terrorism on its soil.

He said, “Today, there are no safe havens for terrorists on our soil”. Now, Pakistan is on the path of economic progress, it is rated as the most progressive emerging market with GDP growth of 6 per cent this year and projection of 6.5 percent in the coming year, the ambassador said.

Ambassador Durrani lauded the bilateral Pakistan-Iran relations which are getting stronger by the day and said that both countries have displayed exemplary cooperation on many regional and international issues. With 35 per cent increase in bilateral trade since last year, the ambassador expressed hope of attaining $5 billion mark of bilateral trade in the next three years.

Iran’s Interior Minister Fazli, in his speech, extended felicitations to the Government and people of Pakistan on Pakistan’s National Day and lauded commemorating of 70 years of history between Pakistan-Iran relations including cultural, civilisational, religious and historical relations.

The Iranian Interior Minister reiterated the interest of the Supreme Leader of Iran on the expansion and deepening relations with Pakistan and said that it has given further strength to these bonds, which has been followed by all the governments of Iran, especially the present govt of Rouhani.

Fazli hoped that opening of new border points between both the countries would enhance the potential of border markets and border security. The development of Gwadar and Chabahar ports, the signing of FTA and implementation of PTA, establishing banking channels between Pakistan and Iran would bring about economic prosperity for both the neighbours and the region and helps in improving Pakistan-china relations.

At the end of the ceremony, Durrani, Fazli and the dignitaries cut a cake to mark Pakistan- Iran friendship.

SOURCE: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/04/12/cpec-to-further-enhance-growing-pak-iran-relations/

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Gwadar and Chabahar different since inception: Manish Tewari

WASHINGTON: Former Union Minister of State in India, Manish Tewari has made comparisons between Gwadar port in Pakistan and Chabahar port in Iran, stating that Gwadar is a long-term strategic venture by Pakistan and China, whereas Chabahar is an entirely commercial enterprise by Iran and India.

The geopolitically instrumental port of Gwadar in southern Balochistan province is being built with the help of China under a multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Chabahar port in Iran is being considered by India, Iran and Afghanistan as a gateway to major opportunities for trade with central Asian countries, and also to counter the increasing military and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China in the region.

“One thing which needs to be very clearly understood is that Chabahar port is a commercial enterprise and Gwadar port is a strategic military enterprise. There is a distinction between as to why two projects have been conceived,” Tewari said yesterday while addressing an event organised by the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.

Similarly, China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is not a connectivity project, the Congress leader asserted, adding that it is a strategic project by which China seeks access to the Arabian Sea and surmount the Straits of Malacca through Gwadar and entire CPEC paradigm. “As such, there is no comparison between Gwadar and Chabahar,” he added.

“And if you couple that with the kind of things that the Chinese have been attempting to do in the Indian Ocean, the influence that they’ve been trying to exert on Sri Lanka, with the developments which they are currently playing themselves out in the Maldives, it does not go well for the region,” he said.

“And therefore, the United States will have to make some hard choices,” the Congress leader said, indicating that the hard choice is a short-term accommodation with Iran. “Those are the hard conversations which the US needs to start having with itself,” he said. “And therefore, at some point in time hard decisions and clear choices need to be made,” said Tewari, a distinguished Senior Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council.

Chief Advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Dr Mohammad H Qayoumi, said this is for the first time in a 100 years that Central Asian countries look at Afghanistan as part of that entity. “We are becoming part of that economic ecosystem,” he said.

“We started an air corridor with New Delhi that has been very successful. We are looking at expanding that to Mumbai this year as well as the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and even Indonesia all who have shown interest,” Qayoumi said.

Source: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/02/gwadar-and-chabahar-different-since-inception-manish-tewari/