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International relations

Japan to restart importing Iranian oil

Exemption from US sanctions allows banks to handle transactions temporarily

Japanese oil distributors plan to resume imports of Iranian oil using an exemption that the U.S. government agreed to in November.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan expects to restart imports of oil from Iran, which have been suspended under U.S. sanctions, as early as this month.

Japanese banks will resume handling transactions for oil purchases for a limited period using an exemption that the U.S. government agreed to in November.

This marks the first time in two months that Japan will be able to import oil from the Middle Eastern country.

Japanese wholesalers, many of which have deals to buy oil from Iran until March, will restart importing the commodity and some banks have notified customers that they will resume handling related transactions.

The Trump administration introduced a second round of economic sanctions against Iran in November, under which over 700 individuals and organizations were added to its list of targeted entities.

Japanese oil distributors and financial institutions then suspended trading with the country, as dealing with Iranian companies that are subject to the sanctions would have prevented them from doing business in the U.S.

The same month, Washington announced that eight countries and regions, including Japan, would be exempted from sanctions. The two governments appear to have had working-level talks since then.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy and other distributors plan to resume imports as early as late January or early February.

However, the exemptions will only be valid for up to 180 days, according to the U.S. government. With shipping companies requesting distributors end imports of Iranian oil by the end of February, the resumption looks set to be a temporary one.

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