The Iranian government has hailed efforts by the country’s Oil Ministry to increase crude exports in recent months, saying the issue is a source of pride for a country that has been subject to a series of harsh and unprecedented sanctions by the US in the past few years.
Government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said on Tuesday that it is an achievement for Iran’s Oil Ministry that is has been able to both raise oil exports and to return its proceeds into the country despite sanctions imposed on trade and on Iran’s access to the international banking services.
He said reports issued by Oil Minister Javad Owji about continued growth in oil sales in recent months were “truly a source of pride” for the country.
The statement came after a new report showed that private crude refiners in China had increased their purchase of oil from Iran to the highest level in three years last year despite growing threat of US sanctions.
The report by the Bloomberg said that China’s imports of oil from Iran and Venezuela, two countries targeted by unilateral US sanctions, rose 53% year on year in 2020 to a total of 324 million barrels.
The report, citing figures by market intelligence firm Kpler, said that discounts offered by Iran had played a major role to incentivize buyers in China to import more Iranian crude.
That comes as the United States has maintained a harsh regime of sanctions since May 2018 against countries and entities who engage in petroleum trade with Iran.
The sanctions were meant to force Iran to abandon its legitimate nuclear and defense activities and came after a former US administration pulled out of an international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, known as the JCPOA.
The Bloomberg report said that private Chinese crude refiners brushed off threats of facing penalties by the US government to enjoy continued and affordable supplies of crude from Iran and Venezuela last year.
It added that China is expected to continue to import Iranian crude at high volumes in early months of 2021 as Iran and world powers keep trying to revive the JCPOA in talks being held in Austria.