News ID: 215105
Published: 1016 GMT May 15, 2018

European firms jump the gun on Iran sanctions

European firms jump the gun on Iran sanctions
Danish oil product tanker operator Torm says it has stopped taking new orders in Iran after US decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. (presstv.com)

Global companies have begun to take stock of how President Donald Trump's decision to exit the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran is going to affect overall business with Iran.

Iran has given the Europeans 60 days to guarantee that business ties with the country will continue as the remaining signatories to the nuclear deal are scrambling to save it, presstv.com wrote.

However, some companies are already responding to the US call to disengage from Iran and stop trade with the country.

Danish shipping companies Maersk Tankers and Torm were reported on Tuesday to have stopped taking new orders in Iran as the countdown begins for the restoration of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

“We follow the situation closely and always follow the rules. Therefore, we have also stopped taking new orders in Iran,” Reuters quoted a spokesman for oil product tanker operator Torm as saying.

A source at Maersk Tankers also confirmed the company is not offering its ships for fresh Iranian cargoes, Platts reported.

The operator, however, made it clear that it will honor agreements that went into force before May 8 when Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on the country.

Turkey, Russia, China, and the European Union (EU) are trying to defy the United States’ drive to demonize and isolate Iran.

The US has given companies a 180-day wind-down period before the sanctions are reimposed on Iran, but European business entities say they do not want to take any chances as some transactions may spill over into the sanctioned period.

Mindful of Western sanctions in 2011 which entailed in a number of hefty penalties, European entities err on the side of caution. However, unlike the past, this time it is only the US that has declared its intention to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Even that has not persuaded some European companies to stay their ground and continue business, meaning they need greater protection guarantees from their governments.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently on a whirlwind diplomatic tour to gauge international readiness to guarantee Iran's interests if it decides to remain in the nuclear deal.

Iran wants the Europeans to give it clear-cut guarantees about fulfilling their obligations if Tehran remains in the deal.  

"The European countries should give us guarantees that in spite of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, the interests of the Iranian nation will still be protected," Zarif said in Beijing on Saturday.

Even before Trump's withdrawal, Iran had repeatedly complained to the Europeans about their failure to persuade companies into dealing with Iran because banks in Europe are generally unwilling to handle Iranian transactions.

Siemens Joe Kaeser was quoted by CNN on Sunday as saying that his company could not do any new business in Iran because it feared facing targeted retaliation from the United States.

"There's a primacy of a political system. If that primacy says 'this is what we're going to do', then that is exactly what we're going to do," he said.

Siemens says delivery of three gas turbines to Iran is still pending. Iran took delivery of the second F-class gas turbine from the German engineering group for use at a 600-megawatt power station last November.

After the lifting of sanctions on Iran in January 2016, Siemens signed a $1.6 billion memorandum of understanding on Iran’s rail infrastructure and a long-term roadmap with Iran’s MAPNA on the power sector.

Siemens has signed an agreement with supply Iran's MAPNA Group more than 20 gas turbines as well as the associated generators.

Other companies with big deals in Iran are tight-lipped, but the Islamic Republic is pushing them to clarify their positions.

Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan, a senior adviser to Iran's Roads and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi, said on Friday Tehran had asked Airbus to announce its decision on a massive deal to deliver about 100 jets to the country.

"We are analyzing the situation and the impact of the (US) announcement on all our contractual agreements and we will then first discuss with our customers," Airbus said in a statement on Monday.

"All steps will be consistent with our internal policies and in full compliance with sanctions and export control regulations," it added.

White House national security adviser John Bolton has said European companies doing business with Iran could be subject to sanctions. 

The US Treasury has also said it plans to enforce "secondary sanctions" on Iran that could ensnare European and global companies.

   
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