News ID: 201315
Published: 0326 GMT September 26, 2017

Europe pondering blocking Iran sanctions if US leaves nuclear deal

Europe pondering blocking Iran sanctions if US leaves nuclear deal

The ambassadors to Washington from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union all strongly backed the international nuclear agreement with Iran, as long as Tehran continues to comply with the pact.

The envoys also warned that Europe is prepared to block US efforts to reimpose sanctions against Iran, Huffington Post reported on Tuesday.

If the US pulls out of the nuclear agreement ― known as the JCPOA ― and reapplies sanctions that target not only Iran, but other countries who do business with Iran, the European Union could take advantage of a statute dating back to the mid-1990s that would protect European companies from being penalized under the sanctions, the European Union’s envoy in Washington, said on Monday.

“We have the blocking statute ... which does offer legal protection to European companies which are threatened by the extraterritorial nature of US sanctions in certain circumstances, David O‘Sullivan said, speaking at the Atlantic Center alongside French, British and German ambassadors.  “I have no doubt that if this scenario materializes, which it’s not clear it will, the European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies with all the means at our disposal.”

Because Washington has virtually no trade relations with Tehran, US sanctions against Iran aren’t an effective nuclear deterrent unless other countries join the effort.

But now that, under the deal, Iran has scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, the countries that helped negotiate the JCPOA see no reason to cut off trade with Tehran again.

“We agree that the demise of this agreement would be a major loss,” O‘Sullivan said.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said anyone advocating walking away should consider “larger issues,” including danger of a nuclear arms race in an unstable region and impact on global nonproliferation efforts.

“What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?” Wittig asked. “It would send a signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can’t trust diplomatic agreements, and that would affect, I believe, our credibility in the West when we’re not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated.”

US President Donald Trump is weighing whether the 2015 deal serves US security interests as he faces a mid-October deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink an agreement strongly supported by the other world powers that negotiated it.

If Trump does not recertify by Oct. 16, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions suspended under the accord. That would let Congress, which is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, effectively decide whether to kill the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last month for the eighth time that Iran was complying with the JCPOA.

If Washington pulls out of the deal, the ambassadors said they would do everything possible to protect any companies based in Europe that continue to do business with Iran from reimposed US sanctions.

Britain’s Ambassador Kim Darroch, said Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May had devoted about half their discussion to Iran when they met in New York last week, although Trump did not reveal his decision to her.

He said May had explained again why Britain supports the nuclear pact, seeing it as a matter of national security. “As long as the Iranians continue to comply with it, in the view of the IAEA, we will continue to support it,” she said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud noted that the other countries that signed the pact – Russia, China and Iran – had made clear that they do not support renegotiating.


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