Open for Business: Iran-E.U. Finalizing Trade Deal to Evade Trump Sanctions

Iran's Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini arrive for a press conference after a meeting on April 16, 2016 in the capital Tehran. Mogherini arrived in Tehran on her first visit since a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers …
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty

Negotiations between Iran and the E.U. aimed at establishing a special payments channel to evade President Donald Trump’s renewed trade sanctions against Tehran are well underway, Iranian deputy Minister of Petroleum, Amir Hossein Zamaninia confirmed.

In an interview with ISNA news agency released on Wednesday, Zamaninia said, “Iran and E.U. are negotiating. Expert-level negotiations between Iran and E.U. (Germany, UK and France) on establishing special payments channel are underway”.

“We hope the special payments channel would be established before November 4,” he added.

Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the original Obama-era trade deal in May. Shortly afterwards,  his administration reimposed sanctions on Iran, which left other signatories to the pact scrambling to avoid punitive measures for dealing with Tehran.

Mr. Trump declared the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, had been “horrible,” leaving the Iranian government with excess cash to contribute to conflicts across the Middle East. Within days of his original announcement,  he observed that even the threat of new sanctions had already worked:

Last month E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the countries were keen to finalize the technical details to defy the U.S.

“In practical terms, this will mean that E.U. member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she told reporters while standing alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

She said that the remaining members of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — would also maintain their commitments to support Iran on civilian nuclear energy.

“The participants recalled that these initiatives are aimed at preserving the JCPOA, which is in the international interest,” she said.

A number of business including French energy giant Total and carmakers Peugeot and Renault as well as Germany’s Siemens and Daimler have already suspended operations in Iran for fear of triggering U.S. sanctions.

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