Washington: The US will end all waivers from Iran oil sanctions when they expire May 2, the White House announced Monday, a decision that drew an immediate threat from Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest oil transit choke point.
Iran's top oil customers - including China, India, Japan and Turkey - will be risking US sanctions enforcement if they continue to import Iranian oil after their waivers expire. The Trump administration aims to "bring Iran's oil exports to zero", the White House said in a statement. The move according to the US will deny Islamic Republic its key source of revenue.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, "along with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied," the White House said. "We have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market."
Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday that the country would "coordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure adequate supplies are available to consumers while ensuring the global oil market does not go out of balance," according to a statement carried by state-run newswire SPA.
Analysts had widely expected the US to extend waivers for some of Iran's biggest buyers of crude and condensate, including China, India, South Korea and, potentially, Turkey.
'If we are barred from using it, we will shut it down'
Iran on Monday threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz waterway in response to the announcement that the White House would no longer issue exemptions for states to buy Iranian oil sanctioned by the United States.
"According to international law, the Strait of Hormuz is a marine passageway and if we are barred from using it, we will shut it down," warned General Alireza Tangsiri according to the semi-official news agency Fars.
"In case of any threat, we will have not even an iota of doubt to protect and defend the Iranian waters," commander added.
The Strait of Hormuz has been the scene of a number of naval confrontations between Iran and the US and has more recently become a point of friction between the two countries since Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord.
Nearly a third of all international naval oil shipments pass through the Strait, and is strategically vital for the US as Bahrain, a key US ally in the Gulf, hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet with around 7,800 US military personnel deployed in the country, as well as a British naval base.
Iran's leaders have numerous times warned that the strategic waterway could be shut down in retaliation for sanctions placed on the Persian country.
In its latest aggressive step to counter Tehran the United States said it would start imposing sanctions on friends such as India that buy Iranian oil.
Other countries that will be affected include China and Turkey, opening up new friction in contentious relationships if the United States goes ahead with sanctions against buying Iranian oil.
But Iran and its allies on Monday remained adamant that the sanctions would not all-together curb Iranian oil exports.
"Whether the waivers continue or not, Iran's oil exports will not be zero under any circumstances unless Iranian authorities decide to stop oil exports ... and this is not relevant now," an unnamed official source was quoted by Tasnim news agency.
"We have been monitoring and analyzing all possible scenarios and conditions for the advance of our country's oil exports, and necessary measures have been taken ... Iran is not waiting for America's decision or the lack of it to export its oil," Tasnim quoted the source as saying."We have years of experience in neutralizing efforts by enemies to strike blows against our country," the report added.
Meanwhile, Turkey- an Iranian oil importing country- said it would not respect the sanctions on importing oil from Iran, insisting it would not abide with the US decision to impose unilateral sanctions.
"We do not accept unilateral sanctions and impositions on the issue of how we will establish relations with our neighbors," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Cavusoglu warned that the US move to end exemptions "will not serve regional peace and stability."