US Secretary of State Kerry has offered a clearer line on doing business with Iran in the wake of last year's nuclear deal. Tehran complained of a lack of economic benefits following the agreed reduction in sanctions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not stand in the way of foreign banks or companies doing business with Iranian companies that were no longer subject to US sanctions. The Iranian government had complained of not getting the full benefits to its economy in the wake of the July 14, 2015 nuclear deal.
"The United States is not standing in the way and will not stand in the way of business that is permitted with Iran since the [nuclear deal] took effect," Kerry said, reading from a prepared text in New York on Friday. "We've lifted our nuclear-related sanctions as we committed to do and there are now opportunities for foreign banks to do business with Iran. Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion among foreign banks, and we want to try to clarify that as much as we can."
July's nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers allowed for some sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and United Nations to be eased in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program. US policy bars foreign banks from clearing dollar-based transactions with Iran through US banks. But the Obama administration is believed to be considering ways in which non-US companies could use the dollar in some business transactions with Iran.
Kerry made the remarks ahead of his second meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Friday. He added: "We have no objection (to) foreign banks engaging with Iranian banks and companies, obviously as long as those banks and companies are not on our sanctions list for non-nuclear reasons."
However, Kerry referred to what he called the questionable integrity of Iran's banking system and other behavior that made executives cautious about moving into the Iranian market. Western firms have expressed concerns that local companies could have links to entities controlled by the increasingly powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
For his part, Iran's Zarif said he hoped Kerry's comments would encourage cash flow and trade with Iran as promised within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which followed the international agreement on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a reduction in sanctions.
"We hope that with this statement by Secretary Kerry [that] now we will see serious implementation of all JCPOA benefits that Iran should derive from this agreement," Zarif said.
The comments followed a deal made earlier Friday in Vienna under which the US Energy Department's Isotope Program purchased 32 metric tons of Iranian heavy water for $8.6 million (7.6 million euros). The heavy water has research and medical applications and can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. It is to be stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee before being resold on the commercial market for research purposes.
jm/sms (Reuters, AFP)