By Abdullahi Mohammed
(Reuters/NAN) Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Tuesday welcomed a U.S. decision to end all Iran sanction waivers by May, saying it was a necessary step to halt Tehran’s “destabilising” policy in the region.
“Saudi Arabia fully supports this step taken by the U.S. as it is necessary to force the Iranian regime to end its policy of destabilising stability and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said in comments carried on state media.
He reiterated a statement issued by the kingdom’s energy minister on Monday that the world’s largest oil exporter would coordinate with other oil producers to ensure an adequate crude supply and balanced markets after Washington’s announcement.
NAN reports that the U.S. told Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China and India that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran after their waivers end on May 2.
Tehran remained defiant over Washington’s decision, saying it was prepared for the end of waivers, while the Revolutionary Guards repeated their threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipment channel in the Gulf, Reuters news agency reported, citing Iranian media.
The Iranian foreign ministry said Iran was in “constant talks with its international partners including the Europeans” on the ending of the exemptions.
It added that a “necessary decision” will be announced later, without elaborating.
The Trump administration granted eight oil sanctions waivers when it reimposed sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
They were granted in part to give those countries more time to find alternate energy sources but also to prevent a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude.
Since November, three of the eight countries receiving waiver, Italy Greece and Taiwan, have stopped importing oil from Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that the U.S .would punish countries that buy Iranian oil after May 2, without spelling out the scope of the sanctions.
“We’ve made clear – if you don’t abide by this, there will be sanctions,” Pompeo told newsmen.
“We intend to enforce the sanctions.”
A senior Trump administration official, briefing U.S. reporters on the condition of anonymity on Monday, said any move by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to the U.S .move would be unjustified and unacceptable.
The official said the administration is now looking at ways to prevent Iran from circumventing existing oil sanctions.