India approaches Halkbank to handle oil payment to Iran

New Delhi, May 15: India has approached Turkey’s Halkbank to faciliate the payment of $6.5 billion to Iran, which it owes for crude oil imports, Iran’s Fars news agency quoted India’s ambassador to Tehran as saying on Saturday.

“The Indian government is seeking to pay the $6.5 billion debt and is looking to prepare the banking activities. The receiving bank for this money will be Turkey’s Halkbank, and the money will be paid in euros,” Fars quoted Saurabh Kumar as saying.

Halkbank officials were not immediately available for comment.

India is one of the biggest customers of Iranian crude, and is set to import at least 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran in the year from April 1, but built up a backlog of payments when Iran was under sanctions.

Since most international sanctions on Iran were lifted in January, India has reached an agreement to send payments to Iran via European banks, India’s oil minister told Reuters last week.

Although most restrictions on Iran have been lifted, the United States maintains some sanctions and a trade embago. This means banks cannot use the dollar for any deals with Iran, while U.S. banks are barred from doing business outright.

While the U.S. embargo does not in theory prevent non-U.S. banks from dealing with Iran, in reality many remain hesitant to do so because they faced hefty fines in the past and are wary of the U.S. sanctions that remain in place.

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