EU Deter­mined to Save Iran Nu­clear Deal

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BRUS­SELS (Dis­patches) - The Eu­ro­pean Union on Tues­day launched work on a nine-point eco­nomic plan to keep the Iran nu­clear deal alive af­ter the abrupt with­drawal of the United States.

Europe is scram­bling to come up with ways to per­suade Iran to stick with the land­mark 2015 agree­ment de­spite U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ditch­ing it a week ago.

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif met EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini and his coun­ter­parts from Bri­tain, France and Ger­many -- the three Eu­ro­pean sig­na­to­ries to pact -- in Brus­sels on the last leg of a whirl­wind diplo­matic tour that also took in Rus­sia and China, the two other sig­na­tory na­tions.

Mogherini said EU ex­perts were aim­ing to come up with con­crete pro­pos­als in the com­ing weeks on nine key is­sues in­clud­ing en­sur­ing Iran could sell its oil and gas prod­ucts and have ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional fi­nance. “I be­lieve it’s a good start. We’re not there, we’re be­gin­ning the process,” Zarif told re­porters af­ter the talks. But he warned that Tehran ex­pected to see progress towards the guar­an­tees it wants “within the next few weeks”. Mogherini ac­knowl­edged the enor­mous chal­lenge of find­ing a way around U.S. sanc­tions pun­ish­ing busi­nesses trad­ing with Iran, which ap­ply all around the world.

“We know it’s a dif­fi­cult task but we are deter­mined to do it and we have started to work to put in place mea­sures that help en­sure this hap­pens,” she told re­porters. EU ex­perts have al­ready started work on mea­sures to get round U.S. sanc­tions on Iran, Mogherini said. Their ef­forts fo­cus on nine key ar­eas in­clud­ing main­tain­ing eco­nomic ties with Iran, con­tin­u­ing Iran’s abil­ity to sell oil and gas prod­ucts and pro­tect­ing EU com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in Iran. The EU is also look­ing at how it could de­velop spe­cial fi­nanc­ing ve­hi­cles for do­ing busi­ness with Iran. The Eu­ro­pean Union in­sists the deal is work­ing, point­ing to re­peated UN in­spec­tions ver­i­fy­ing the Is­lamic re­pub­lic’s com­pli­ance with its side of the bargain.

EU lead­ers aim to show a united front on pre­serv­ing the Iran deal when they meet for a pre-sum­mit din­ner in Sofia, Eu­ro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk said.

“I would like our de­bate to re­con­firm with­out any doubt that as long as Iran re­spects the pro­vi­sions of the deal, the EU will also re­spect it,” Tusk said in a let­ter to the lead­ers on the eve of the sum­mit.

Eu­ro­pean firms, es­pe­cially those from France and Ger­many, rushed to in­vest in Iran fol­low­ing the 2015 ac­cord, un­der which Tehran agreed to freeze its nu­clear pro­gram in re­turn for an end to pun­ish­ing in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

Ger­man ex­ports to Iran to­talled nearly 3.0 bil­lion eu­ros in 2017, while French ex­ports soared from 562 mil­lion eu­ros in 2015 to 1.5 bil­lion in 2017 and oil gi­ant To­tal has pledged to in­vest some $5 bil­lion in the South Pars gas field. When he quit the deal last week, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump gave busi­nesses a max­i­mum of six months to wind up op­er­a­tions in Iran or face swinge­ing penal­ties un­der Amer­i­can sanc­tions.

“We have to be re­al­is­tic about the elec­tri­fied rail, the live wire of Amer­i­can ex­tra-ter­ri­to­ri­al­ity and how that can serve as a de­ter­rent to busi­ness,” said Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron held phone talks with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin on Tues­day, and the Krem­lin said they had “con­firmed Rus­sia and France’s com­mit­ment to make the deal work”.

But Mogherini cast doubt on the idea on Tues­day, say­ing the deal “doesn’t need to be changed, mod­i­fied or have any ad­di­tion”. “We’re not talk­ing about an­nexes or mod­i­fi­ca­tions of the agree­ment at all, we’re talk­ing about set­ting up con­crete mea­sures” to pre­serve the deal, Mogherini said.

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