EghtesadOnline: High-level meetings on Thursday and Friday in London were held to maintain and develop Iran-UK trade ties, and a major focus was on preserving humanitarian trade to Iran threatened by inconsistencies in US policies in administering unilateral sanctions.
The latest Iran-UK trade development meetings were held at the London residence of Iran's Ambassador to Britain Hamid Baeidinejad. UK trade envoy to Iran, Lord Norman Lamont, and former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, were among keynote speakers.
The meetings also included a roundtable discussion on latest developments in Iran-UK trade relations attended by business analysts and experts, IRNA reported.
The reimposition of US sanctions against Iran, after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in May from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, threaten humanitarian trade with Iran due to ambiguities concerning their scope and objectives. That is why humanitarian trade, which must be ethically and technically exempt from sanctions, was a main focus of the London gatherings, Financial Tribune reported.
> 'Excessive' Reliance on Sanctions
Lord Lamont said the US is relying on sanctions excessively, which have mostly targeted average Iranians. He pointed out that the sanctions may create a crisis in terms of humanitarian trade.
"The British government has secured the guarantee from the government in Washington that humanitarian trade items will be exempt from sanctions," the trade envoy said, adding that the British government continues to interact with the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department on this issue.
But the British official maintained that US banking sanctions against Iran continue to pose a serious threat to humanitarian trade, including exports of medicine, food and agricultural products to Iran.
He pointed to measures adopted by the European Union to maintain ties with Iran, including the creation of a special purpose vehicle (SVP), and expressed hope that it will be able to maintain ties without having anything to do with the US. He also said it becomes more vital than ever for Iranian banks to upgrade themselves to better conform to European standards.
Lamont said it is a "major step" for the UK to align itself against its longtime ally US concerning the nuclear deal, referring to the deal as a landmark agreement that may serve as a platform to conduct further negotiations in the future.
He said it is imperative for Iran to be able to continue benefiting from its oil exports, stressing that Saudi Arabia will fail to fully account for the gap created by declining oil exports from Iran, and said European nations are negotiating with Asian counterparts to keep buying Iranian crude.
"Even as the US says these sanctions are supposed to be the most stringent, sanctions not backed by Europe cannot be the most stringent," Lamont said.
> 'Most Serious Mistake of American Policy'
Jack Straw referred to returning US sanctions as not the harshest, but "the most serious mistake of the American foreign policy" that only serve to isolate the US.
"There have been periods when the UK has chosen a path diverging from the US, but this [nuclear deal path] is among the most important," the former foreign secretary said, adding that the US must ultimately understand that the UK and Europe will not back down from their stance on the nuclear deal.
In a quip to White House National Security Advisor John Bolton who has called US sanctions against Iran "the harshest in history", Straw called them "the most revengeful sanctions" because they only target average Iranians.
"The revengeful part of US sanctions are visible when we consider that humanitarian trade goods like medicines, medical equipment and even food are not exempt from sanctions by US Treasury regulations," the politician said, adding that it means a Iranian patient will effectively be cut off from vital medicine due to secondary sanctions.
On Thursday, Iran's Health Minister Seyyed Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi said "at present we don't face serious issues in providing the requirements of the country in terms of medicines and medical equipment, but that doesn't mean that we don't have any problems".
The second wave of US sanctions against Iran snaps back on Nov. 5, but the American government reinstated more sanctions on Tuesday in a sign that it only aims to up the pressure against Tehran.
The sanctions, aimed at countering what OFAC called "a vast network of businesses providing financial support" to the paramilitary force Basij Resistance Force, affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, among others targeted several banks and financial institutions. Most importantly, the private Parsian Bank was put on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists list. The bank is among Iran's major institutions facilitating humanitarian trade.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif quickly condemned the act.
“Latest US sanctions violate 2 ICJ (International Court of Justice) orders: to not impede humanitarian trade & to not aggravate the dispute. Utter disregard for rule of law & human rights of an entire people. US outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” he said in a Twitter post.
“US addiction to sanctions is out of control,” he added.
In his speech at the London gatherings, Iran's ambassador to the UK said economic and trade ties between the two countries are at a historic threshold and never been more strategic.
"Our economic relations have always been traditional, but this time they have found a special political and strategic importance," Baeidinejad said.