Vitol subsidiary’s purchase of Iranian oil targeted by Israeli, US critics
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Switzerland has been criticized harshly by the Jerusalem Post for what the Israeli newspaper calls “The Swiss government’s refusal to adopt comprehensive EU sanctions targeting Iran’s energy and finance systems”.
Switzerland has a history of enforcing sanctions similar to those of the European Union but with delays to review the implications for Swiss law. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but has close economic relations.
The EU is expected to tighten sanctions against Iran again after a 15 October ministerial meeting, to increase pressure on Iran to stop developing its nuclear energy programme. Bern has said it will carefully review the measures to consider implementing them.
But Switzerland walks something of a tightrope in its relations with Iran. In July, when Switzerland last tightened its sanctions, swissinfo noted that “Switzerland has represented US interest in Tehran for more than 30 years. As part of its good offices, Switzerland has also tried to mediate unofficially in the long-standing dispute over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme. A foreign ministry spokesman told the Swiss News Agency that Switzerland had every interest in keeping good relations with Iran.”
The July Swiss sanctions did not include an outright ban on oil trading, a business of significant size, particularly in Geneva. Nor have the Swiss sanctioned Iran’s central bank. The Swiss sanctions stopped short of the revised ones in July by the European Community and in August, by the US.
The August US sanctions forbid the subsidiary of any US company to deal in Iranian oil, closing a loophole. A Bahrain subsidiary of Swiss oil firm Vitol is reported to have traded oil with Iran.
The Jerusalem Post says the disclosure in September of the trade “has prompted concern from the US embassy in Bern” but it then cites Bern-based US spokesperson Alexander Daniels as saying “that Vitol has acknowledged one transaction in July 2012 and issued a statement on September 26, saying that the company will ‘no longer purchase any product of Iranian origin.’ While we continue to look into all possible sanctionable activities, we welcome Vitol’s commitment to cease transactions with Iran, a commitment that is in line with that made by many other companies and governments throughout the world.”
Links to related articles:
- “EU Sanctions Against Iran’s Largest Port Operator Risk Curbing Legal Trade”, Bloomberg, 10 February 2012
- “Tightening Oil Sanctions on Iran”, Journal of Energy Security, 7 August 2012
- “United States: New US Sanctions Against Iran: Implications For Both US And EU Companies“, Mondaq International Law, 10 June 2012
- “Iran sanctions: Amid signs they’re working, EU aiming for more”, CS Monitor, 3 October 2012
- “Europe Weighs More Sanctions as Iran’s Currency Plummets”, Business Week, 3 October 2012