06/26/2012, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - IRAN

U.S. and EU sanctions force Seoul to cut imports of Iranian crude

The two major South Korean companies are not capable of insuring transport. From July 1 companies, mostly European, will no longer insure vessels carrying the ayatollahs’ oil. Seoul is the first major Asian economy to stop imports.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - South Korea will be forced to suspend all imports of Iranian oil from July 1 next. The two main importers of crude oil, SK Energy and Hyundai Oil Bank are not able to take out insurance policies on transport, as a result of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Tehran. Among these there is also, as of next month, a ban on insuring cargo vessels carrying crude oil extracted from Tehran. Oil is the main economic resource for Iran, Europe and the U.S. have repeatedly tried to use the crowbar of sanctions on exports, to convince the ayatollahs government to abandon its nuclear program opposed by Israel and the Western bloc.

Seoul is the first major Asian economy to halt imports of Iranian oil. Only a few days ago, however, China increased imports by 35%, up to 524 thousand barrels per day (see AsiaNews 22/06/2012 Beijing taking advantage of Iran sanctions to boost Iranian oil imports). In a joint statement the South Korean ministries of Economy, Finance and Foreign Affairs stressed that the government "will continue to strive to minimize the effects" of the block on the domestic industry and the economy, while safeguarding "export to Iran "- down in the last period - even if "oil imports will be suspended. "

Oil tankers take on insurance contracts to protect themselves in case of accidents, assaults, and damage to the environment. However, most companies are in Europe and this makes it difficult to sign a contract. Even the major insurance companies, in fact, from July 1 will observe the embargo against Tehran. Recently, many Asian nations have called on the Iranian government to take action to circumvent the block. India has demanded full autonomy for Iran in the transport and insurance contracts; Beijing is calling for the same, while Japan says it will provide "sovereign guarantees" to protect the product.

Economic sanctions, decided some time by Washington and Brussels, were launched after the failure of nuclear talks between Tehran and the 5 +1 (the members representatives of the UN Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany) which ended last June 19 in Moscow (Russia). Another meeting is planned in Istanbul (Turkey) on 3 July.

For months, the U.S. has been putting pressure on China, the leading importer of Iranian oil, and other Asian nations to push for a significant cut in oil contracts. And this is to force Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program and abandon the feared development of atomic weapons. On June 12, Washington exempted India and six other countries from possible economic sanctions, although not "significantly" reducing their oil imports from Iran.

 

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