Defying Trump, powers agree to evade Iran sanctions, keep nuke deal alive
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Defying Trump, powers agree to evade Iran sanctions, keep nuke deal alive

EU to set up legal entity allowing European businesses to continue trading with Tehran while avoiding penalties from US aimed at pressuring Islamic Republic

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) takes part in a bilateral meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in the French Mission to the United Nations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) takes part in a bilateral meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in the French Mission to the United Nations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

NEW YORK — The European Union said Monday its members would set up a payment system to allow oil companies and businesses to continue trading with Iran in a bid to evade sanctions after the US withdrew from a nuclear agreement.

Iran and the European Union announced their defiance towards US President Donald Trump’s administration after high-level talks at the United Nations among the remaining members of the accord.

The countries said in a statement that they were determined “to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran.”

With the United States and the dollar dominating so much of global trade, the statement said the new mechanism would “facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports (including oil) and imports, which will assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking at the United Nations alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the countries were still working out the technical details.

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini is seen at the start of a meeting on Libya hosted by France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

“In practical terms, this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she told reporters.

She said that the remaining members of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — would also maintain their commitments to support Iran on civilian nuclear energy.

“The participants recalled that these initiatives are aimed at preserving the JCPOA, which is in the international interest,” she said.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the UN, called the agreement on Twitter the “birth of P4+1,” referring to a downsized version of the original P5+1 group of nuclear deal signatories that included the US.

The joint statement said the six countries that signed the 2015 nuclear agreement “reconfirmed their commitment to its full and effective implementation in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere.”

They called the agreement “a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy.”

The participants reaffirmed their joint statement on July 6, “in particular to pursue concrete and effective measures to secure payment channels with Iran.”

Pressure on Iranian economy

In line with findings of UN inspectors, Mogherini reiterated that Iran has been in compliance with the nuclear agreement — under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.

The agreement was sealed in 2015 in a signature achievement for then US president Barack Obama.

Trump pulled out of the agreement in May, describing it as a “disaster” and quickly moving to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Despite the protests of the European Union, a number of business including French energy giant Total and carmakers Peugeot and Renault as well as Germany’s Siemens and Daimler have already suspended operations in Iran for fear of triggering US sanctions.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 file photo, various currency rates are displayed at a window of an exchange shop in downtown Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

With Iran’s economy already feeling the pinch, US national security adviser John Bolton earlier Monday vowed to impose “maximum pressure” on Tehran, while insisting that Washington was not pushing for regime change.

Hassan Rouhani President of the Islamic Republic of Iran leaves after speaking at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit September 24, 2018 a day before the start of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. (AFP / Don EMMERT)

US Arab allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Israel have long sought for Washington to work to curtail Iran’s influence in the Middle East, including in war-torn Syria and its support for the Hezbollah terror group.

The EU move comes a day before Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani separately address the UN General Assembly, with the US leader expected to take a hard line on Iran.

Earlier Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani got in a jibe against Trump as the UN confab opened, negatively comparing him to Nelson Mandela.

“This is a historical reality that great statesmen tend to build bridges instead of walls,” Rouhani said.

TOI staff and AP contributed to this report.

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