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US urged not to punish EU firms over Iran

June 6, 2018

European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal have written to key US officials, urging them to respect Europe’s commitment to the deal. They stressed that EU firms active in Iran should be spared from sanctions.

Symbolic image of rejection and criticism of the EU European Union on the US exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA
Image: Imago/Ralph Peters

In a letter to the US officials, ministers from Britain, France and Germany specified key areas they wanted to be exempted from possible secondary sanctions that might be imposed on firms that deal with Iran.

The United States has threatened to impose secondary sanctions on companies that deal with Iran after Washington said it would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose its sanctions on Tehran.

Details of the June 4 letter, also signed by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, were revealed on Wednesday.

  • In the letter, sent to both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, foreign and finance ministers from Germany, France and Britain singled out key sectors for exemptions.
  • The European ministers appealed to the US not to undertake any action that would harm its allies.
  • Included were automotive, banking, civil aviation, energy, healthcare, infrastructure and pharmaceuticals.
  • The signatories said any withdrawal of Iran from the nuclear agreement "would further unsettle a region where additional conflicts would be disastrous."
  • The other signatories, China and Russia, are also committed to staying in the deal, but many businesses are already beginning to wind down Iran operations.
  • The move comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Europe to persuade European signatories to follow Washington's lead in abandoning the deal.

On the French stop of his tour of Europe, Netanyahu said he had not urged French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal, alluding to the secondary sanctions. "I didn't ask France to withdraw from the JCPOA because I think it is basically going to be dissolved by the weight of economic forces," Netanyahu told a joint news conference with Macron.

Read more: Benjamin Netanyahu and Angela Merkel play down Iran differences

US pullout from deal

The US withdrew from the landmark accord last month and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

The aim of the deal had been to prevent Iran from making its own nuclear bomb while giving it the capacity for a civil nuclear program.

As part of the accord, Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear capacity — including centrifuges and enriched uranium stocks, for several years.

Tehran said it would slash the number of centrifuges by more than two-thirds to 5,060, and would maintain this for several years.

Thin red line

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared on Monday that he had given orders for preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity, should the deal fall through.  French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said these plans were already dangerously close to breaking the agreement.

"It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines, but the initiative taken ... remains totally within the framework of the Vienna (nuclear) deal."

"If they go to a higher level then yes the agreement would be violated, but they need to realize that if they do then they will expose themselves to new sanctions and the Europeans will not remain passive."

rc/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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