ISLAMABAD ( JAVED MAHMOOD )
Iran has started selling petroleum products to Afghanistan after two decades as American and NATO troops are vying to evacuate the war-ravaged country.
Iran resumed fuel exports to Afghanistan a couple of days ago following a request from the new Afghan government, which feels empowered by the US withdrawal to buy the sanctioned nation’s oil more openly, an Iranian official has told the Reuters news agency.
The Sunni Muslim group seized power in Afghanistan last week as the United States and its allies withdrew troops after a 20-year war.
The price of gasoline in Afghanistan reached $900 per tonne as many Afghans were driven out of cities, fearing reprisals and a return to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law the Taliban imposed when in power 20 years ago.
To counter the price spike, the new Taliban asked Shia Iran to keep the borders open for traders.
“The Taliban sent messages to Iran saying: ‘You can continue the exports of petroleum products’,” Hamid Hosseini, a board member and spokesman of Iran’s Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Products Exporters’ Union, in Tehran, said.
The Taliban sent messages to Iranian traders and to an Iranian chamber of commerce, which has close links to the government.
As a result, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA), which is a part of the government, lifted a ban on fuel exports to Afghanistan, which had been in place since August 6 because of Iran’s concerns about the safety of trading in the country.
Those concerns have been eased by the Taliban’s attitude, Hosseini said.
He also cited the Taliban’s decision to cut tariffs on imports of fuel from Iran and other neighbouring countries and shared with Reuters an official document issued by Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the name by which the Taliban refers to itself.
The document specified a 70-percent discount on tariffs on imports of gasoline, diesel and LPG from the neighbouring countries to Afghanistan.
Dealing more openly
Iran sits on the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves but the latest round of US sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump in 2018, has significantly reduced Iranian oil exports.