Cambodia plans to import and refine oil from Iran, a spokesman from the Council of Ministers has said, just one among several proposed forms of strengthened co-operation between the two countries, PhnompenPost reported.
During their latest meeting in Brussels on January 23, EU foreign ministers reached an agreement to ban oil imports from Iran, freeze the country's central bank's assets within EU, and ban sales of grains, diamonds, gold and other precious metals to Iran.
EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, claimed that the new sanctions aim to bring Iran back to negotiations with P5+1 -- US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany -- over the country's peaceful nuclear program.
The United States, Israel and their European allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to impose four rounds of international and a series of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.
Cambodian officials have maintained that the Kingdom will take foreign direct investment from all interested nations. The US Embassy in Phnom Penh said that it expected all United Nations members to take into consideration US regulations when dealing with Iran.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Iranian Ambassador Seyed Javad Ghavam Shahidi agreed on Thursday to strengthen economic ties between the two countries, Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha said.
Among the proposed economic activity were oil imports from Iran, which would be refined in Cambodia and then sold to China starting in 2014, Ek Tha had said.
Construction on Cambodia's first oil refinery, located on 365 hectares in Sihanoukville and Kampot provinces, will begin in April and finish in 2014, PhnompenPost reported last month.
Domestically owned Cambodian Petrochemical Company, China National Automation Control System Corporation and China's Sino March Company will invest US$2 billion in the refinery.
Cambodia Petrochemical's Han Kheang said that he has met with the Iranian ambassador twice to discuss the oil imports.
"Other proposed economic cooperation between the two countries included agricultural exports to Iran, as well as Iranian investments in medicine and education in Cambodia," Ek Tha said.
"The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on oil and gas projects last year," he added.
Cambodia will not take into account the foreign policies of other countries toward Iran when considering investment in the Kingdom, Ek Tha said.
"Some Western countries put economic sanctions on [Cambodia] after we toppled the Pol Pot regime. We have learned some hard lessons about the damage of sanctions, so we will keep our economy open."
Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, said members of the United Nations shouldn't ignore US policy toward Iran.
"We expect all UN members to strictly enforce UN [Security Council] relations and to consider carefully the impact of new US regulations when considering engaging in economic activity with Iran," he said.
A North Korean delegation arrived in Phnom Penh in July to discuss strengthening economic and trade relations with Cambodia, the Post reported last year.
Edited by: S. Isayev