EU to set up legal entity to facilitate trade with Iran

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (not pictured) at his office at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis

The European Union (EU) will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran in light of the U.S. withdrawal from the international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program and the re-imposition of sanctions, said the EU’s foreign and security policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday.

The legal entity will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with EU law and could be open to other partners in the world, Mogherini told reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York after she attended a meeting of foreign ministers from Iran and from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — the five remaining powers of the 2015 agreement after the withdrawal of Washington.

Mogherini said participants of Monday’s ministerial meeting were supportive of such a measure.

These initiatives are aimed at preserving the Iran nuclear deal, which is in the interests of the international community, according to a joint statement of the foreign ministers, whose English version was read out to reporters by Mogherini.

“The participants welcomed practical proposals to maintain and develop payment channels, notably the initiative to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports — including oil — and imports, which will assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran,” reads the statement.

“In practical terms this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran,” explained Mogherini.

The six foreign ministers and Mogherini met on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in a bid to save the Iran nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump decided in May to pull out of it and to restore sanctions on Iran, including those intended to curb Tehran’s oil exports.

“The participants considered ways forward to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects,” reads the statement, using the formal name of the Iran deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“They also took stock of the process of finding and operationalizing practical solutions for issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and the re-imposition of sanctions.”

The participants recognized that alongside implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments, the lifting of sanctions, including the economic dividends arising from it, constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA, says the statement.

The participants recognized that Iran indeed has fully and effectively implemented its nuclear-related commitments, notes the statement.

They said that the JCPOA is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231.

Participants underlined their determination to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran, in full accordance with the Security Council resolution.

The participants reaffirmed their continued commitment to their past promises, including the one to pursue concrete and effective measures to secure payment channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas condensate, petroleum products and petrochemicals, says the statement.