World powers warned Iran to respect the terms of their nuclear deal in talks on Friday that Tehran said were the “last chance” to save the pact, as Washington vowed to choke off all sales of Iranian oil.
“We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil… There are right now no oil waivers in place,” Brian Hook, the US Special Representative On Iran, told reporters in London.
The United States would study reports of Iranian crude going to China, Hook said when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia, adding: “We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil.”
Washington has re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Trump administration aims to cut Iran’s oil sales to zero to force Tehran to negotiate a broader deal that includes its missile capabilities and regional influence.
Hook said the United States was on track to deprive Iran of $50 billion in oil revenues and told European companies to choose between doing business with the United States or Iran.
His comments ratcheted up pressure on European allies who are struggling to save the nuclear deal, also signed by Russia and China, in the face of US sanctions.
Tehran is threatening to pull out of the accord unless it secures a reprieve from US measures that have led to a collapse in sales of crude, its main export.
Hook’s statement further lowered expectations of a breakthrough at the Vienna talks, where senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met with Iranian officials around midday (1000 GMT).
Tehran is threatening to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed under the deal unless fellow signatories of the deal rein in the United States, adding to fears of a military escalation in the region.
“We will repeat to the Iranians that nuclear issues are not negotiable. We want them to stay in the accord, but we won’t accept them messing us around,” a senior European diplomat said before the meeting.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Friday described the talks as a “last chance for the remaining parties … to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran.”
An Iranian official told reporters ahead of the meeting that his country’s main demand was to sell its oil at the same levels that it did before Washington withdrew from the accord.
However, he cautioned that Tehran had lost patience with the European signatories. Until its demand is met, Iran will continue on its current path and go over limits of the deal one by one, starting with the uranium enrichment level, the official said, although none of the actions are irreversible.
“For one year we exercised patience. Now it is the Europeans’ turn to exercise patience,” he said. “They should try to find solutions, practical solutions and there’s always enough time for diplomacy and there’s always the possibility to go back, to reverse.”