The European Union is reportedly unlikely to impose new sanctions on Iran after several countries rejected measures proposals by the United Kingdom, France and Germany that were intended to keep US President Donald Trump from walking away from the nuclear accord.
Reuters reported Thursday that at a closed door meeting a day earlier Italy, Spain and Austria rejected a plan to freeze assets and impose travel bans on some 15 Iranian individuals, companies and groups linked to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
The Italians reportedly said that the move would not be enough to satisfy Trump, who said in January that the 2015 deal between Iran and major world powers would have to be “fixed” by May 12 or the United States would walk away from it, likely ending the accord.
Rome was also reportedly concerned that such sanctions would damage planned €5 billion ($6 billion) investment deals with Tehran.
According to EU rules, such sanctions require unanimous support.
“Italy said dialogue was the preferred option and that sanctions could weaken our position while not convincing the United States,” a diplomat told the news agency. “Spain asked the three to consider the implications of such a move.”
Those opposed to new sanctions also complained of the speed at which London, Paris and Berlin tried to push through the legislation.
“There was a commando approach, but it failed,” another diplomat told Reuters. “The difference here is that everyone thinks Trump will pull out [of the Iran deal] and so some consider this pointless.”
Senior US State Department official Brian Hook said earlier this month after talks in Berlin and Vienna that Trump wants to reach a “supplemental” deal with the European signatories to the agreement by then.
This would cover Iran’s ballistic missile program, its regional activities, the expiration of parts of the nuclear deal in the mid-2020s and tighter UN inspections, Hook said.
However, Trump’s recent decisions to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo and to bring in John Bolton to replace General H.R. McMaster as national security adviser have been widely seen as a bad omen for the agreement.
The accord between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany curtailed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran, which according to the UN atomic watchdog has been abiding by the deal since it came into force in January 2016, has vowed to oppose any changes to the existing deal.