French shipping firm drops Iran over US sanctions threat
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French shipping firm drops Iran over US sanctions threat

World’s third largest shipping container group cites Trump administration in decision to cease servicing Islamic Republic

In this photo taken on December 26, 2015 The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, the largest container ship to ever call at a North America port, is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California.  (AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK)
In this photo taken on December 26, 2015 The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, the largest container ship to ever call at a North America port, is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. (AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK)

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — The world’s third largest shipping container group, the French-owned CMA CGM, has decided to withdraw from Iran over the threat of US sanctions, its chief executive said Saturday.

“Because of the Trump administration, we have decided to end our service to Iran,” Rodolphe Saade told an economic conference in Aix-en-Provence in southern France.

“Our Chinese competitors are hesitating a bit, so they may have different relationships with the Trump administration.”

In 2016 the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines allowing it to lease spaces for vessels, operate joint shipping lines, and cooperate on the use of port terminals.

US President Donald Trump announced in early May the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal and the reinstatement of sanctions against the country, as well as against foreign companies who do business with it.

Washington said the sanctions would be immediate for new contracts and gave companies already working there up to 180 days to cease trading.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini (L); Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) and political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi take part in a Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ministerial meeting on the Iran nuclear deal on July 6, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. (AFP/APA/Hans Punz)

On Friday, the remaining partners in the 2015 nuclear deal vowed to keep Iran plugged into the global economy despite the US withdrawal and sanctions threat.

Britain, France, and Germany along with Russia and China met with Iran in Vienna to offer economic benefits and assurances that would lessen the blow of sweeping US sanctions announced by Trump.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised them for their “will to resist” US pressure at a Vienna news conference broadcast by the Fars news agency.

The foreign ministers Friday agreed on an 11-point list of joint goals in the Austrian capital, where the accord was signed with the aim of stopping Iran from building the atomic bomb in return for sanctions relief.

In the joint statement, they reconfirmed their commitment to the deal and its “economic dividends” for Iran, which has suffered worsening financial turbulence since Trump abandoned the accord, and vowed to work for “the protection of companies from the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions.”

Although there were no concrete pledges or deadlines, they also vowed efforts to keep open financial channels with Iran, promote export credit cover, and maintain open air, sea, and overland transport links.

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