European nations were urged Friday to stand as one and fight U.S. sanctions targeting foreign companies that trade with Iran, as Washington increased its pressure on the Islamic republic.
France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire (pictured) made the call after U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he was pulling out of Barack Obama’s 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program, reintroducing sanctions on the Islamic republic and those that trade with it.
Washington has given European firms doing business in Iran up to six months to wind up investments or risk U.S. sanctions and they are also forbidden from signing any new contracts with Iran.
Mr. Le Maire said the European Union had to defend its “economic sovereignty” when it comes to trade with Iran.
“We have to work among ourselves in Europe to defend our economic sovereignty,” Mr. Le Maire told Europe 1 radio ahead of talks with Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra.
AFP reports Mr. Le Maire said the E.U. would hold “collective discussions with the United States to obtain… different rules” covering European companies that do business with Iran.
“At the end of May I will meet with the British and German finance ministers and the three of us will look at what we can do.”
Mr. Le Maire revealed he had called U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to urge him to allow exceptions for French companies or a delay in implementing the sanctions, while admitting he has “few illusions” about the likely response.
Just 24-hours earlier France’s foreign minister condemned the reimposing of sanctions with Iran, labelling the move “unacceptable” in comments that expose the deepening rift between Washington and its European allies on the issue.
France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian said Washington needed to negotiate with its European allies on any sanctions that might affect their companies.
“We feel that the extraterritoriality of their sanction measures are unacceptable,” he told the French daily Le Parisien.
“The Europeans should not have to pay for the withdrawal of an agreement by the United States, to which they had themselves contributed,” he said.
Europeans, he added, would “do everything to protect the interests of their companies” and planned to lead “tight negotiations” with Washington via the European Union.
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