French min­is­ter slams banks for their in­ac­tiv­ity with Iran

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

FRANCE’S en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter signed a plan for French firms to help tackle Iran’s en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, but crit­i­cised the re­fusal of her coun­try’s banks to work with the Is­lamic repub­lic.

Se­go­lene Royal met in Tehran with the head of Iran’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Vice Pres­i­dent Mas­soumeh Ebtekar, and a group of min­is­ters, agree­ing to work to­gether on the wa­ter short­age, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and pol­lu­tion prob­lems fac­ing Iran.

But both sides are aware that the re­fusal of ma­jor French banks to work in Iran is a huge ob­sta­cle to work­ing to­gether.

“It’s a real prob­lem. It’s been raised by the Ira­nian min­is­ters but also by French busi­nesses,” she said.

“It’s com­pletely un­ac­cept­able. We can’t ask Iran to make ef­forts on en­ergy tran­si­tion ... while the fi­nan­cial sys­tem doesn’t re­spond, in­clud­ing on in­dus­trial co­op­er­a­tion that could help deal with en­ergy, cli­mate and pol­lu­tion is­sues,” she said.

De­spite in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions be­ing lifted un­der a nu­clear deal with world pow­ers in July 2015, ma­jor banks re­main fear­ful of work­ing in Iran in case they fall foul of re­main­ing US sanc­tions re­lated to its hu­man rights record and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram.

The US gov­ern­ment has tried to re­as­sure Euro­pean banks they will not face pros­e­cu­tion for work­ing with Iran, but the rules are com­plex and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions fear the eye-wa­ter­ing fines im­posed in the past by the US Trea­sury in­clud­ing an US$8.9 bil­lion fine on France’s BNP Paribas in 2014.

Ms Royal said she would ur­gently look for a work-around, even if it meant look­ing out­side France to smaller Ital­ian banks that are less ex­posed to the US sys­tem.

“We will find a so­lu­tion. Ei­ther we will work with non-French banks ... or we will mo­bilise the pub­lic in­vest­ment bank, or why not the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank?” she said.

Ms Royal added that the cur­rent ob­sta­cles were “com­pletely con­tra­dic­tory” given the Paris cli­mate agree­ment signed last year that called for ma­jor in­vest­ments in the green econ­omy.

She said she would re­turn to Iran in Fe­bru­ary when the coun­try is host­ing a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal expo to dis­cuss progress on the part­ner­ships. –

Photo: AFP

Iran’s Vice Pres­i­dent Ma­soumeh Ebtekar (Cen­tre) leaves with French Ecol­ogy Min­is­ter Se­go­lene Royal, af­ter a meet­ing in Tehran on Au­gust 28.

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