Europe still wants to conduct business in Iran despite regime involved in terrorism

Germany, France, and Britain are set to launch a mechanism to allow financial flows to be sent to Iran that would not violate U.S. sanctions in an attempt to keep alive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

The so-called special-purpose vehicle (SPV), expected to come into force on January 31, will help European firms with legitimate business interests to use barter techniques to conduct business in Iran.

The plan has long been in the development stages, but the German dpa news agency reported on January 30 that the SPV was ready to be officially launched, focusing on areas not targeted by U.S. sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal reported the three countries had started the process of registering the SPV to run a payments channel that would allow goods to be bartered between European and Iranian companies without the need for direct financial transactions.

Germany, France, and Britain — which signed the nuclear deal along with the United States, Russia, and China — have been working hard to keep the accord alive after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May he would withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

The EU is backing the SPV but is not directly involved, officials said. The measures involved are designed to protect European firms from U.S. court action and allow them to recover any financial damages related to the sanctions.

The plan and details could be announced when EU foreign ministers meet in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, in an informal gathering on January 31.

After negotiations with Iran, the three countries had planned to put the SPV in place in November, but the countries struggled to find ways to minimize the risk of the U.S. sanctions for firms involved.

However, on January 28, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “we are on the verge of implementing our plan.”

The goal is to ensure that the economic benefits provided to Iran under the 2015 deal remain sufficient for Tehran to keep abiding by the curbs placed on its nuclear program.

“We don’t want Iran to leave this agreement and start the enrichment of uranium again,” Maas said.

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said on January 31 that the United States did not expect the mechanism to affect its effort to apply maximum economic pressure on Tehran.

“Entities that continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran risk severe consequences that could include losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or U.S. companies,” a spokesman for the mission said.

According to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran has so far abided by the terms of the deal in regard to nuclear development despite the U.S. withdrawal.

However, it has continued to test its ballistic missiles, which Washington and many in Europe say could eventually be fitted with nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is purely defensive.

Still, Europe is maintaining a tough line on Iran regarding the ballistic-missile program.

“It’s essential we show our American colleagues that we are going in the same direction as them on a series of issues such as ballistic missiles and Iran’s regional activities,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said as he arrived for the EU meeting in Bucharest.

On January 25, France said it was ready to impose new sanctions on Tehran if talks on its missile program make no progress.

Source » rferl

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