India, Iran seek to engage S. Korea and Russia in oil payments

India, Iran seek to engage S. Korea and Russia in oil payments

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 7 /Trend/

New-Delhi and Tehran are working on a long-term solution to settle payments for crude oil imports from Iran through banks in South Korea and Russia after India managed to pay long pending dues to Iran through Turkey's Halkbank, government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said, The Indian Economic Times reported.

At a bilateral meeting held in the Indian capital on Wednesday, the two sides have decided that both governments will also explore other stable payment options such as through won and rouble, the officials say.

"Both countries are in talks with banks in Russia and South Korea. We have to see how far these two countries are willing to support Iran," said an official requesting anonymity.

The two countries are hopeful about some positive outcome as Russia and South Korea have existing trade relations with Iran, officials said.

"We need to see if they will let us use their banks and allow us to use their currency as the move would put additional pressure on them (from the US)," said another government official who had attended the meeting.

The finance ministry's statement said today an Iranian delegation had met an Indian inter-ministerial delegation to discuss several issues, including matters relating to settlement of payments on account of bilateral trade between the two countries.

The Indian side was represented by officials from the finance ministry, the commerce ministry, the oil ministry and the RBI.

The tension between two countries for oil payment started in December, 2010, when the Reserve Bank of India placed restrictions on transactions with Iran through the Asian Clearing Union. Washington believes Tehran has been using the ACU to bypass international sanctions imposed over Iran's refusal to halt the nuclear program. The sanctions include banking restrictions.

In February 2011, India had made part payments for Iranian crude oil import through German bank EIH, which is under U.S. but not EU sanctions. But later due to the U.S. pressure India agreed to stop paying via Germany since the German chancellor Angela Merkel had intervened by instructing the Deutsche Bundesbank (Central Bank) to stop clearing payments from India headed to the EIH bank.

Due to resistance from the US, India is unable to pay Iran in dollars.

Despite India's debt, Iran had continued to export 400,000 barrels of oil to India daily, worth $1 billion per month.

An interim solution was found in early September wherein Indian companies were to make payments through Turkey. The Indian companies such as Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals were to route euro payments to state-owned Turkiye Halk Bankasi (Halkbank) in Istanbul. The bank then transferred the money to the account of the National Iranian Oil Company.

Iran is the second-largest crude supplier to India after Saudi Arabia and accounts for about 16 percent of the country's oil import bill.

Edited by T.Konyayeva.

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