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Iran to seek removal of US sanctions in Vienna talks, having already boosted oil exports

Iran wants the removal of Trump-imposed US sanctions before it scales back atomic activities under the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior official said ahead of a April 6 Vienna meeting that could draw a roadmap to normalize the country’s oil trade.

Register Now “We don’t have any step-by-step plan or proposal, and we don’t accept any. In our view, there is only one step and not more,” Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, said, according to state news agency IRNA. “The US should remove … all sanctions that were reimposed after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA or newly imposed or relabeled … and then we verify and return to our commitments.”
The US and Iran are set to hold indirect talks in Vienna, along with the EU, China and Russia, in an attempt to resuscitate the nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that waived sanctions on Iran’s oil sector in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities. Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in May 2018, reimposing the sanctions, prompting Iran to break some of its requirements under the deal.

Current President Joe Biden has said he supports a return to something similar to the 2015 pact, but has been clear that Iran must take first steps towards returning to compliance — a parameter that Tehran has rejected.

Iranian crude production has risen in recent months, hitting 2.14 million b/d in February, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey of OPEC output, a 190,000 b/d increase from a 33-year low of 1.95 million b/d in August. Much of that rise has come from higher volumes shipped to China, in a direct challenge to the US, buoyed further by climbing oil prices in 2021.

Platts Analytics estimates Iran’s crude and condensate exports averaged 825,000 b/d in Q1, up from 420,000 b/d in Q3 2020.

Market sources say accurately tracking Iranian shipments has been made challenging by cloaking methods used by Iran and its oil customers to avoid detection. Iranian officials have steadfastly refused to divulge any data on crude production or exports since sanctions were reimposed.

China, which recently signed a 25-year trade and security agreement with Iran, has called on the US to drop its sanctions, which include severe restrictions on Iran’s oil sales and cutting the country’s access to petrodollars. The insurance and shipment of Iranian oil tankers as well as the global money transfer SWIFT mechanism are also among Iran’s top priorities.

“The final step which they should carry out, and we too, should be defined precisely. And this will be only worked out in our technical talks with the 4+1 countries,” Araghchi said, referring to the remaining signatories of the deal — China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany

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