Pompeo Allows Sanctions Exception for Chabahar Port

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran Iran

The decision by the Trump administration, which a day earlier imposed the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and is very restrictive in giving exemptions, is a seen as a recognition by Washington of India's major role in the development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of enormous strategic importance for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.

The statement came as the second round of the USA anti-Iranian sanctions entered force on Monday.

The United States said on Tuesday it would exempt Iran's India-backed port of Chabahar from new sanctions, recognising the value of the project to Afghanistan. "These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan's growth and humanitarian relief".

Zahedan is also in Iran but closer to the Afghanistan border.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the energy-rich nation's southern coast is easily accessible from India's western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar.

Representatives of India, Afghanistan and Iran met a little more than two weeks ago in New Delhi, despite looming US sanctions, to discuss operationalization of the port, which is seen as key to connect India and Afghanistan to Iran and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

"The president's [Donald Trump's] South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan's economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India", said the official.

The Persian version said the U.S. "will regret this unwise move" and emphasised that the sanctions were aimed at "separating people from each other and from the establishment".

"Trump administration made the right move by exempting India for the development of the Chabahar port", Jeff Smith of the Heritage Foundation told PTI.

New Delhi has poured $2 billion into development in Afghanistan since the 2001 US -led overthrow of the Taliban government.

Trump's decision has been opposed by European powers as well as other nations including India, which has largely warm relations with Iran.

"Everyone must respect Arab national security, especially that of the Gulf", he added.

"This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan", he said.

Chabahar and INSTC are important strategic projects for India and Afghanistan.

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