Iran says it expects EU to set up mechanism to bypass US sanctions by November

Since Trump’s pullout from nuclear accord, European countries have begun working on payment system to allow oil companies and businesses to continue trading with Tehran

Abbas Araghchi (C), Iran's chief nuclear negotiator arrives at the Austria Center Vienna after another rounds of talks between the EU 5+1 on May 16, 2014 in Vienna. (photo credit: AFP/DIETER NAGL/file)
Abbas Araghchi (C), Iran's chief nuclear negotiator arrives at the Austria Center Vienna after another rounds of talks between the EU 5+1 on May 16, 2014 in Vienna. (photo credit: AFP/DIETER NAGL/file)

Iran on Saturday said it expected the European Union to establish a legal framework by November 4 to bypass American sanctions and to allow the continuation of trade between Tehran and EU member states.

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 historic nuclear agreement signed in 2015.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said in an interview with the official IRNA news agency that “the mechanisms initiated by Europe should begin at the most by November 4,” according to Hadashot TV.

November 4 is the date on which US sanctions against its vital oil industry are set to begin.

After high-level talks at the United Nations among the remaining members of the nuclear accord, Iran and the European Union announced their defiance towards US President Donald Trump’s administration, saying in a statement that they were determined “to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran.”

Hassan Rouhani President of the Islamic Republic of Iran arrives to speak to 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)

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.

“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.

During a briefing with Iranian reporters in New York on Friday, Zarif said of the preservation of the JCPOA that the Iranians “are seeing that [the European powers] are taking steps to implement it.”

Zarif added that “the most important step taken so far is creating the Special-Purpose Vehicle,” a mechanism allowing trade between European countries and Iran. “Many central banks in Europe are members of it.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses a meeting to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons, during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday September 26, 2018 at UN headquarters (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Zarif said that these steps illustrate Europe won’t let the US dictate policy for them.

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 businesses 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.

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

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

AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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