EU to ban Iran gas imports soon – report

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A worker checks the valve gears in a natural-gas control centre of Turkey’s Petroleum and Pipeline Corporation, 35 km west of Ankara. Photo – Umit Bektas/Reuters

Diplomatic sources told Reuters on Thursday the European Union is considering a ban on Iranian gas imports into Europe as part of its efforts to ratchet up pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.

EU member states are said to be working on a package of sanctions against Iran with a goal of formally adopting them at a meeting of foreign ministers on Oct. 15 in Luxembourg, the report said adding that the diplomats reached a preliminary deal on late Wednesday to ban gas imports, the first measure to win approval in the package, which also consists of various finance and energy-related proposals.

“There is agreement on gas,” one of the diplomats told Reuters while speaking on condition of anonymity. “The big states back it, Germany, Britain, France,” another one added.

Iran is coming under intense pressure from the European governments and the United States who are looking for new ways to hammer Tehran into abandoning its nuclear work.

American companies have been barred from dealing in Iranian oil and gas and trade with Iran by Washington since 1995.

European Union imposed an embargo on Iranian oil this year, after banning the creation of joint ventures with enterprises in Iran engaged in the oil and natural gas industries in 2010.

Existing EU sanctions cover investment in Iranian gas, but do not specifically outlaw imports and are symbolic in terms of volume. The EU sources said Iranian crude reaches Europe via Turkey, which blends it with Azeri gas and ships it on.

The new measure risks alienating Turkey, which has a pivotal role to play in its plans of diversifying gas supplies away from dominant supplier Russia.

Turkey was likely to ignore the ban, In any case, one of the sources told Reuters.

“There are two possibilities. Either Turkey goes with it or Turkey maintains imports silently,” the source said.

Turkey is renowned for optimising its strategic position by playing off all its potential partners. It controls a huge chunk of a planned new export route for shipping Azeri gas, which would link up with one of two short-listed pipelines to complete the journey into the EU.

A protracted territorial dispute between current EU president Cyprus and Turkey has soured ties between Turkey and the European Union, but one of the sources said they could probably withstand a ban on Iranian gas.

“Relations between Turkey and Europe are not very good, but they’re not very bad,” he said.

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