EU to Launch Moves to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran Friday


The EU said Thursday it will begin moves to block the effect of U.S. sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran deepened a transatlantic rift.

The decision came as Russia and China took some of their most concrete moves yet to extend their economic influence in Iran, in the face of renewed U.S. efforts to choke off Tehran.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week controversially pulled Washington out of the 2015 international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions.

European companies that invested in Iran after the deal are already taking fright, with French energy giant Total warning it could pull out, and Danish shipping giant Maersk and German insurer Allianz also saying they plan to wind down activities there.

After EU leaders discussed Iran at a meeting in Bulgaria, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would start measures on Friday to ease the effect of the U.S. sanctions on European companies.

"We will begin the 'blocking statute' process, which aims to neutralize the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions in the EU. We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10:30," Juncker said at the summit in Sofia.

The "blocking statute" is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington's trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws, and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the European Union.

However, the Cuba row was settled politically, so the blocking regulation's effectiveness was never put to the test, and its value may lie more as a bargaining chip with Washington.

- 'It's not a joke' -

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that one reason for the efforts to prop up the Iran deal is "so that our businesses can remain" in Iran.

The EU leaders pledged at the meeting to keep a united front against Trump, whose decisions to pull out of the Iran deal and to impose trade tariffs on Europe have triggered the worst transatlantic crisis since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

EU President Donald Tusk renewed attacks on Trump at the summit Thursday, suggesting that the U.S. administration was now as unpredictable as Iran's regime.

"The real geopolitical problem is not when you have an unpredictable opponent or enemy, the problem is if your closest friend is unpredictable. It's not a joke now," Tusk told a news conference with Juncker.

Tusk on Wednesday had slammed Trump's "capricious assertiveness", comparing him to Europe's traditional adversaries Russia and China, and saying Trump's approach had left the EU with "no illusions" that it could rely on anyone else.

China, Russia and EU members Britain, France and Germany were also signatories of the Iran nuclear accord, and have said they will stick to the deal if Tehran respects its terms.

Beijing and Moscow have also stepped up efforts to save the deal.

On Thursday, a Russian-led trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signaled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.

In the Kazakh capital Astana, the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran that lowers tariffs on hundreds of goods.

Russian firms have less to lose from bucking U.S. sanctions. Many major Russian companies are already operating under tightening U.S. sanctions over Moscow's seizure of Crimea and its role in the Ukraine crisis.

- 'Reinforce China' -

Meanwhile, Iran's oil minister said that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran.

Beijing also signaled that it intends to continue "normal and transparent practical cooperation with Iran."

The U.S. says its sanctions apply to any transactions that are conducted in dollars, which are used in most international transactions, in particular in trading of crude oil.

But China has for years been working to increase trade using its currency and in March a yuan-denominated oil contract was launched in Shanghai.

Trump's withdrawal from the deal is now likely to boost China's influence in the region, a European diplomatic source warned.

"The Iran issue will probably reinforce China in the region, because the European businesses that can't take on the cost of difficulties on their American markets will leave an important gap for a power that seems to have no problem with taking their place," the source said.

Comments 8
Missing phillipo 17 May 2018, 18:01

What exaxtly can the EU do when the US tells companies like Airbus and Total "You can trade with us, or you can trade with Iran. It is up to you and you alone to decide"

Thumb whyaskwhy 17 May 2018, 18:22

Not much Phillipo what the EU is trying to show here is that they are capable of protecting their markets. We have seen this occure over and over in the past 40 years but in the end it get them no were they fall in line with the US. Even though Trump has said its time to nix Nato, Nato is still Europes first and foremost line of defense thats not likely to change over the next 50 years. European companys cannot continue trade with a terror nation and claim that terror needs to stop.

Missing bigjohn 17 May 2018, 19:53

Airbus can make planes without Israeli occupied America you enemy Zionist thugs. EU was created as an economy power to Counter the US so they will not be under US control. The terrorist apartheid state is Israel.

Missing phillipo 18 May 2018, 10:16

Of course they can produce the planes, but won't be able to sell the to the American market.
Apartheid Israel, is that why there is a Moslem Member of the Supreme Court and many lower court judges, 13 Arab Members of Parliament, Senior Officers in the Security Services and Police, Diplomats, Lawyers, Senior doctors, Bank Managers, etc etc. How many non Moslems are there in these positions in ANY Arab States (except Lebanon)?

Missing bigjohn 17 May 2018, 20:04

America is isolated and needs to make a choice is it Europe or APARTHEID settler state of so called Israel. Russia is not interested in occupying Europe. They are against NATO expansion East. The EU can sanction American companies and pay the sanctioned European companies. When the American elite sees that America is isolated in the world they will choose the side of Europe than the criminal colonoial Apartheid Israel.

Missing bigjohn 17 May 2018, 20:09

The Chinese are ready to go in Iran and replace the French oil company Total. So are the Russians.

Missing bigjohn 18 May 2018, 00:18

The Zionist enemy are nervous. The American elite are opposed to a trade war with China never mind Europe. The Europeans are ready for a trade war. Since 1979 The US sanctions have ONLY been effective when they were supported by European allies. Also, the dollar is increasingly not used. You now have China Oil companies who do NOT do business in the US, ready to go into Iran and take over from Total French company. The US who is now in full employment have an increasing deficit that will bring down Trump who is in debt to China.

Missing bigjohn 18 May 2018, 00:19

Your Israeli existence is a CRIME!