October 18, 2021
An Iranian lawmaker and an industry official say that Chinese vessels have been avoiding Iranian ports and Iranian ships are not allowed into Chinese ports.
At the same time, parliament’s research center has demanded that before signing any agreement with China, to clarify Beijing’s position regarding Western sanctions.
Iran has been promoting close relations with China as a counterweight to the United States, amid crippling sanctions imposed by Washington since 2018. Tehran has reached agreement over a 25-year strategic pact with Beijing, saying that China is ready to invest hundreds of billion of dollars in Iran.
But Massoud Daneshmand, member of the association of transportation companies told Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) that because of US sanctions against Iranian ports not even Chinese vessels do not use the facilities, unloading their cargo in Dubai from where the goods are transported by Iranian ships.
Hours after Daneshmand’s remarks, Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, spokesman of parliament’s national security committee told Entekhab website that this is “not a new issue”. He added, “We have our own ways to circumvent the sanctions.”
It is not clear why Iranian officials had not complained before about the Chinese policy of complying with US sanctions and are raising the issue now.
China has generally respected sanctions against Iran, except reports of limited clandestine and indirect oil purchases which go unreported by its customs office.
Earlier in the week, Mohammad Reza Khiabani, the head of Iran’s commercial fleet had said that Iranian vessels have been banned from Chinese ports since last year. Another official has said that China admits Iranian vessels only in its small ports and demands huge fees.
The news about China’s enforcement of US sanctions on Iranian shipping might be embarrassing for hardline supporters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who have been trumpeting Iran’s “Looking East” policy. Khamenei promulgated the policy in 2018, saying that Iran should adopt an Eastern orientation of relying on China and Russia for business and commerce in the face of US sanctions.
Washington has been reportedly leaning on Beijing in recent months to curtail its dealings with Tehran, to pressure it to reach agreement in nuclear talks that started in April. Iran stopped the talks in June and so far, has refused to return to the negotiating table, while enriching more uranium.
In another development, India in September seized three tons of heroin worth $2.72 billion in September and its largest port operator later announced that it would not handle any cargo originating in Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan.
An Iranian news website reported in 2018 that Dubai’s main port handles five times more cargo than all of Iran 20 ports.