EghtesadOnline: Six European countries, namely Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden announced in a joint statement on Friday their intent to join the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), designed to facilitate trade with Iran.
The countries said they put “utmost importance to the preservation and full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), signed between Iran and six world powers in 2015.
“In light of the continuous European support for the agreement and the ongoing efforts to implement the economic part of it and to facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran, we are now in the process of becoming shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) subject to completion of national procedures,” the statement published on the website of Finland’s Foreign Ministry said.
INSTEX was established by France, Germany and the United Kingdom in January 2019 to save the landmark nuclear agreement after the United States unilaterally abandoned the deal and said it wanted a new agreement, according to Financial Tribune.
The US has imposed ever since what its administration described the “toughest ever sanctions” against Iran’s finances, foreign trade and oil production.
The trade channel is aimed at bypassing reinstated US sanctions against Iran and facilitating legitimate business of EU companies with Iran, with a high priority in the initial stages, given to “humanitarian goods,” such as food and medical supplies.
Run-Up to Dec. 6 Meeting
The announcement came in the run-up to the talks between parties to the nuclear deal in Vienna next week. Officials from China, Russia, France, Germany and the UK will meet with Iran in Vienna on December 6 to discuss how to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a European Union statement on November 26.
The announcement was welcomed by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and apparently drew the ire of Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, who chastised European nations’ move, in a Twitter comment to Lars Nordrum, Norway’s ambassador to Iran.
Le Drian praised the “important decision” of prospective INSTEX shareholders, saying this will show “Europe’s autonomy of action.”
“Important decision today by six European countries to join INSTEX. A strong commitment by Europeans to support the #JCPOA and Europe's autonomy of action. We expect #Iran to return to compliance with the agreement,” Le Drian wrote in a Twitter post.
A Step Forward
In the same vein, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, expressed the hope that “new members joining INSTEX would revitalize the mechanism and improve its operation”.
“The fact that EU nations are still steadfast to have INSTEX as mechanism for maintaining trade with Iran is valuable per se,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by IRNA on Saturday.
While commending the EU countries move to join INSTEX, the senior diplomat said “the efficiency of the mechanism is another [important] matter”.
He was implying to European hesitations to put the mechanism into full operation after the lapse of almost a year since its creation.
Although the Europeans have chosen to remain in the deal in defiance of US withdrawal, Iranian officials have been skeptical of their attempts to protect mutual trade against the US restrictions.
Iranian authorities say the European initiatives have failed to protect Iran's economy against the US sanctions, threatening to take reciprocal action.
Unsatisfied with the EU efforts, Tehran, which initially was in full compliance with the agreement, has begun gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA despite Brussels’ calls for continued adherence.
In one of its latest moves Iran has reportedly started enriching uranium to five percent at its Fordow nuclear facility.
Araqchi said earlier that "this financial system has been suggested too late and [it] operates at a low level. It has not yet been fully implemented”.
He stressed that this system will be successful if the Europeans buy Iranian oil as the country's main export to Europe.
"If not, there will not be a large amount of money left for trade with this tool," he said.