EghtesadOnline: The European Union on Tuesday launched work on a nine-point economic plan to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive after the abrupt withdrawal of the United States.
Europe is scrambling to come up with ways to persuade Iran to stick with the landmark 2015 agreement despite US President Donald Trump's unilateral annulment a week ago, AFP reported.
Tehran has warned it is prepared to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite Washington's reimposition of sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany—the three European signatories to the pact—in Brussels on the last leg of a whirlwind diplomatic tour that also took in Russia and China, the two other signatory nations, Financial Tribune reported.
Mogherini said EU experts were aiming to come up with concrete proposals in the coming weeks on nine key issues, including ensuring Iran could sell its oil and gas products and have access to international finance.
"I believe it's a good start. We're not there; we're beginning the process," Zarif told reporters after the talks.
But he warned that Tehran expected to see progress toward the guarantees it wants "within the next few weeks".
Mogherini acknowledged the enormous challenge of finding a way around US sanctions punishing businesses trading with Iran, which apply all around the world.
"We know it's a difficult task but we are determined to do it and we have started to work to put in place measures that help ensure this happens," she told reporters.
"EU experts have already started work on measures to get around US sanctions on Iran."
Their efforts, according to European External Action Service, focus on nine key areas as follow:
- Maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran;
- The continued sale of Iran's oil and gas condensate petroleum products and petrochemicals and related transfers;
- Effective banking transactions with Iran;
- Continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Iran;
- The further provision of export credit and development of special purpose vehicles in financial banking, insurance and trade areas;
- The further development and implementation of memoranda of understanding and contracts between European companies and Iranian counterparts;
- Further investments in Iran;
- The protection of EU economic operators and ensuring legal certainty;
- Further development of a transparent, rules-based business environment in Iran.
> Respect the Deal
The European Union insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated UN inspections verifying the Islamic Republic's compliance with its side of the bargain.
"I would like our debate to reconfirm without any doubt that as long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," European Council President Donald Tusk said in a letter to the leaders on the eve of the summit.
European firms, especially those from France and Germany, rushed to invest in Iran following the 2015 accord, under which Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for an end to punishing international sanctions.
German exports to Iran totaled nearly €3 billion in 2017, while French exports soared from €562 million in 2015 to €1.5 billion in 2017 and oil giant Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars Gas Field.
> No Illusion
When he quit the deal last week, Trump gave businesses a maximum of six months to wind down operations in Iran or face penalties under American sanctions.
"We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extra-territoriality and how that can serve as a deterrent to business," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
French President Emmanuel Macron held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and the Kremlin said they had "confirmed Russia and France's commitment to make the deal work".
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was working hard to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal with its European partners.
But Mogherini cast doubt on the idea on Tuesday, saying the deal "doesn't need to be changed, modified or have any addition".
"We're not talking about annexes or modifications of the agreement at all; we're talking about setting up concrete measures" to preserve the deal, Mogherini said.