News ID: 253154
Published: 0951 GMT May 21, 2019

France: Europe facing 'huge pressure' from US over Iran trade channel

France: Europe facing 'huge pressure' from US over Iran trade channel

European powers are facing huge pressure from the United States to drop their proposed trade channel with Iran, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday.

Britain, France and Germany, which signed a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s US withdrawal from the accord, Reuters reported.

As part of those efforts, EU is trying to set up a special trade channel known as INSTEX, but it is struggling to become operational.

They registered the INSTEX, which would be based in the French capital, Paris, and managed by a German banking expert.

In its initial stage, the mechanism will facilitate trade of humanitarian goods such as medicine, food and medical devices, but it will later be expanded to cover other areas of trade, including Iran’s oil sales.

“Yes, there is American pressure. It’s strong, very strong and very direct on this subject,” Le Maire told reporters in Paris. “There is pressure on political officials, the administration and all those who are implicated on this subject.”

Tension between Washington and Tehran has escalated this month. The US wants its European allies to fall behind its policy of putting maximum pressure on Iran through sanctions to push it to fresh negotiations on a broader deal.

Le Maire said that as well as the US pressure, daily threats by Iran to withdraw from the agreement were also making its talks on creating the trade channel more difficult.

On May 8, Iran announced that it would stop exporting excess uranium and heavy water, setting a 60-day deadline for the five remaining parties to the deal to take practical measures towards ensuring Iran’s interests in the face of the American sanctions.

“I do not think that Europe will give into an ultimatum,” Le Maire said.

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday Iran has increased by fourfold the production rate of uranium enriched to 3.67% just a few weeks after the country officially stopped implementing some of its commitments under the nuclear accord, Press TV reported.

"This issue does not mean an increase in enrichment level or an increase in centrifuge machines or a change in the type of centrifuges, but the production capacity of these 3.67% enriched uranium will be quadrupled," Kamalvandi said.

He added that Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) of this issue.

Kamalvandi noted that the increase in production is a message to other signatories to the nuclear deal to tell them they must take necessary measures asked by Iran when it announced downgrading of its commitments.

Iran has censured the European signatories to the landmark nuclear agreement of 2015 for failing to fulfill their obligations under the deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on May 9 that the European Union should stop submitting to Washington's dictates concerning Tehran instead of just expressing regret over the White House's anti-Iran policy.

US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington in May 2018 from the nuclear agreement and decided to reimpose unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

Under the JCPOA, reached in July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.



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