Germany’s Minister of State Niels Annen said the US campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran will not bring Tehran to the negotiating table a year after Washington pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“I do not think Trump's maximum pressure strategy will make Iran negotiate. Iran is not North Korea,” Annen told German newspaper Die Welt.
Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, signed between Iran and six world powers last year in May, and reinstated sanctions that had been lifted under the pact in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear work.
Since then the Trump administration has been ratcheting up pressure on Iran in an effort to negotiate a “better deal”.
The sanctions have notably targeted its main foreign revenue stream in the shape of crude oil exports.
Annen said Iran’s “disappointment” with the European signatories to the nuclear deal to shield it against US sanctions was understandable.
“I can understand the disappointment in Iran that the expected economic benefits of the agreement are currently not fulfilled. That is why we have founded the payment mechanism INSTEX, which will at least help, despite US sanctions, to continue the supply of medical and humanitarian goods to Iran,” the minister said.
Set up by France, Britain and Germany, INSTEX is a barter trade mechanism that aims to avoid direct financial transfers by offsetting balances between importers and exporters on the European side.
Annen warned that “it will be harder and harder for advocates to maintain the agreement” if Iran chooses not to comply with the nuclear accord.
“With the creation of the new payment mechanism INSTEX, France, the UK and Germany have made an unprecedented effort. Seven other European countries have already publicly expressed their support for this path, he said.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday his country is working hard to reach the point where the first transactions can be carried out under the special trade channel.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said on Thursday he hoped the special trade channel would complete a first, limited transaction in the coming days.
France’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that INSTEX would become operational based on Iran’s “full compliance with its JCPOA (Iran deal) commitments.”
Iran has said it wants to keep the nuclear deal alive but must receive promised economic benefits. On Monday, Iran said it had crossed the limit set in the deal for the storing low-enriched uranium, its first major reduction of its commitments to the nuclear pact, and it has said it will announce further measures on July 7.
Annen, however, said he expects that Iran will continue to abide by the deal.
“In principle, I expect Iran to continue to comply with the provisions of the nuclear agreement. We also communicated this very clearly to Tehran. However, it has long been announced that Iran wants to respond with such a step to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.”
Annen said Europe will stick to the agreement as the accord “regulates an important question for Europe's security”.
Reuters contributed to this story.