China and European countries expressed their keenness to continue trade with Tehran after the United States reinstated its “toughest sanctions ever” on the Islamic Republic on Monday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Asian giant’s lawful trade cooperation with Iran should be respected and expressed regret about the US reimposing sanctions on Tehran.
“China expresses regret at the US decision. We also noted that the international community is widely against unilateral sanctions,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
“China consistently rejects unilateral sanctions and long arm tactics. We think China and Iran carrying out normal cooperation under the framework of international law is lawful and reasonable, and [this right] should be respected and protected,” he added.
The European Union also said it is opposed the US decision, under which the second batch of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors were put into effect.
“The European Union does not approve of it,” European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told franceinfo radio on Monday, hours after the sanctions were reinstalled.
The European Union, France, Germany and Britain have already said they regretted the US decision and would seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
A German government spokesman said on Monday that Germany is convinced that it should enable legal business relations with Iran and is checking how to protect companies affected by sanctions reimposed on Iran by Washington.
“We are assessing how we will be able to protect the basis of our business engagements there,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Switzerland said on Monday it is holding talks with the United States and Iran about launching a humanitarian payment channel to help ensure food and drugs keep flowing to the Islamic Republic.
“Switzerland is committed to safeguarding Swiss economic interests and closely follows the development of the situation. The authorities are in direct contact with the competent authorities of the United States, the EU and Iran,” the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said in an emailed statement.
“Particularly in the humanitarian field, the federal government is committed to ensuring that food and pharmaceutical products can continue to be supplied from Switzerland,” it said.
The Swiss were also not involved in developing alternative mechanisms to SWIFT in the area of secure messaging and payment transactions.
Switzerland in August encouraged Swiss companies to pursue business ties with Iran prudently and expressed regret at the poor sanctions situation.
US sanctions take force
The support came as the US imposed strict sanctions on Iran on Monday and threatened more action to stop Tehran pursuing “outlaw” policies.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Monday that Iran “has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”
Pompeo said the “objective is to starve” Iran of “the funds it uses to fund violent activity throughout the Middle East and around the world. Our ultimate goal is to encourage them to abandon their revolutionary course.”
“We hope a new agreement with Iran is possible, but until Iran makes changes in the 12 ways I listed in May, we will be relentless in exerting pressure on the regime,” Pompeo said.
The move restores and strengthens sanctions lifted under a 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program from which Washington withdrew in May.
The sanctions cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 persons and vessels in its shipping sector, and targets Tehran’s national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
US sanctions permit trade in humanitarian goods such as food and pharmaceuticals, but measures imposed on banks and trade restrictions could make such items more expensive.
Pompeo said Washington had granted exemptions to eight countries allowing them to temporarily continue buying Iranian oil. More than 20 countries had already cut their oil imports from Iran, reducing purchases by more than one million barrels per day, he said.
“We continue negotiations to get all of the nations to zero,” he said.
Press TV, Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.