“We are working urgently to clarify the final requirements – such as determining the country where the mechanism will be headquartered,” Maas told Der Spiegel on Friday.
The EU wanted a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to help preserve the economic benefits for Iran deriving from the curbs Tehran placed on its nuclear program under a 2015 deal with world powers. In May 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it and reinstated sanctions on Iran.
“That isn't easy in a confrontative situation with the US because it is, of course, trying to exert pressure,” Maas said.
EU diplomats had hoped to have the SPV in place last year but ran into delays as member states balked at hosting it for fear of being targeted by the revived US sanctions regime against Iran.
Maas, however, expressed hope that the EU “will be able to finalize the payment channel in the coming weeks.”
The SPV is a virtual clearing house which the Europeans have been working on for months to process Iran-related transactions independent of the US, but the mechanism has yet to see the light of the day.
So far, the Europeans have failed twice to fulfill their promises to get the system up and running.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Friday the US cannot impose its policies on the 28-nation bloc's "legitimate trade" relations with Iran.
"We Europeans cannot accept that a foreign power – even our closest friend and ally – makes decisions over our legitimate trade with another country," Mogherini said.
She added that the EU is working with the rest of the international community to keep alive the landmark nuclear agreement, officially known as the JCPOA, despite the US unilateral withdrawal from the deal.
The Iran nuclear deal "has so far been implemented in full, as certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 13 consecutive reports," she said.
A report by the IAEA said in November that Iran has continued to implement all its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal even as the United States reimposed fresh sanctions against Tehran.
Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.