European countries set up payment channel with Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions
02 February, 2019, 08:58 | Author: Taylor George
Germany, France and Britain have launched an EU-backed system to facilitate trade with Iran to help European businesses circumvent unilateral USA sanctions on Iran. It will apparently be based in Paris, have a German banking expert at the helm, and a Brit chairing its supervisory board.
Months before the USA sanctions on Iran's oil returned, the EU pledged to create a new payment system, the so-called special-purpose vehicle (SPV), that "will assist and provide reassurance to European businesses wishing to continue trading with Iran, mitigating the effect of re-imposed United States sanctions, in accordance with European Law".
France and Germany had taken joint responsibility for the SPV.
Washington says that although Iran complied with the terms of the deal, the accord was too generous, failing to rein in Iran's missile programme or curb its regional meddling. "I hope we can also find a solution for this vehicle".
The three countries - the European signatories to the 2015 deal that curbed Tehran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief - launched the device, which has been in preparation for months, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest.
The head of the country's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, has also repeatedly warned over the past few months that Iran's "period of patience is getting more and more limited".
The measures involved are created to protect European firms from USA court action and allow them to recover any financial damages related to the sanctions.
"As the president has made clear, entities that continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran risk severe consequences that could include losing access to the USA financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or U.S. companies", a spokesman for the embassy said.
It is the most ambitious attempt by European allies to save the Iran nuclear deal from collapse following President Trump's decision to withdraw from it.
The three big European powers are also assessing whether to push for new sanctions on Iran over its missile program, diplomats have told Reuters.
The EU this month imposed its first sanctions on Iran since the nuclear pact was signed, in response to ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil.
"It's not a "circumvention" of US sanctions or anything like that, since all this trade is permitted", said Brian O'Toole, a former USA sanctions official at the Treasury Department who is now at the Atlantic Council.
"By establishing the SPV, the E.U.is sending the Trump administration the wrong signal".
Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, told Iranian state television by telephone on Thursday that he expected the "special goal vehicle" to be ready for business in one or two months. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in particular, is under pressure domestically to get something out of the deal, which hard-liners at home opposed.
"We're clear: This commitment [the 2015 nuclear deal] does not in any way preclude us from addressing Iran's hostile and destabilising activities", Hunt, the British foreign minister said.
Iran is also looking to Russian Federation and China, the other signatories to the nuclear accord, to maintain trade flows in defiance of the United States.
She said entities that engage in sanctionable activity with Iran risk losing access to the USA financial system and the ability to do business with U.S. companies.
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