0859 GMT January 18, 2019
France: EU could compensate firms hit by US sanctions over Iran
The European Union is not doing enough to preserve the benefits for Iran from the 2015 international nuclear pact following the withdrawal of the United States, Iran’s foreign minister told the EU’s energy chief on Sunday.
“With the withdrawal of America, Iran’s public expectations from the European Union have increased in order to maintain the deal’s gains, and in the current context, the European political support for the accord is not sufficient,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told Miguel Arias Canete in Tehran.
“The announcement of the possible withdrawal by major European companies from their cooperation with Iran is not consistent with the European Union’s commitment to implementing (the nuclear deal),” Zarif said.
Several European giants have said they will leave Iran after the US threatened to target companies doing business with the Islamic Republic.
Canete told Zarif that US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal has created some problems for Europe but the EU seeks to continue cooperation with Iran and save the nuclear deal.
EU protection for firms
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday France is looking to see if the European Union could compensate European companies that might be facing sanctions by the United States for doing business with Iran.
Le Maire referred to EU rules going back to 1996 which he said could allow the EU to intervene in this manner to protect European companies against any US sanctions, adding that France wanted the EU to toughen its stance in this area.
In 1996, when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba, the EU forced Washington to back down by threatening retaliatory sanctions.
"Are we going to allow the United States to be the economic policeman of the world? The answer is no," Le Maire told C News TV and Europe 1 radio on Sunday.
Le Maire added it was important Italy kept its EU budget commitments, in light of plans by Italy's new coalition government to ramp up spending – which could put Rome at odds with the EU.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said on Friday it took steps to preserve the interests of European companies investing in Iran and demonstrate the EU's commitment to the nuclear deal.
The commission "launched the formal process to activate the blocking statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope," it said.
The executive said it hopes the statute will be in force before August 6 when the first batch of reimposed US sanctions take effect.
The statute, which the 28 EU member states and the European Parliament must endorse, is aimed at reassuring European firms that invested in Iran after the deal.
"The blocking statute forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions," the commission said.
It also "allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them," the executive added.
The commission said the political directors or deputy foreign ministers from the EU, Britain, France and Germany will meet on May 25 in Vienna with their counterparts from China and Russia.
EU officials said it will be their first such meeting with envoys from Beijing and Moscow – which are also trying to save the deal – since Washington pulled out.
On a second front, the commission said it is encouraging EU member states to explore the idea of "one-off bank transfers" to the Central Bank of Iran.
The approach, it said, could ensure Tehran receives its oil-related revenues if US sanctions target EU firms active in oil transactions with Iran.
Since the US withdrawal, the remaining parties have all pledged to stick to the deal if Tehran respects its terms.
Tehran has warned it is ready to resume no-holds-barred "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment unless Europe can provide solid guarantees to preserve Iran's economic benefits under the deal.
Reuters, IRNA and AFP contributed to this story.