EU Commissioner in Iran in Bid to Save Trade Ties

EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete yesterday arrived in Tehran to present plans for continuing oil and gas purchases and protecting European companies. despite renewed US sanctions on Iran.

Preserving the 2015 nuclear deal. despite the US’ decision to withdraw. is “fundamental for peace in the region.“ Canete said.

“For sure there are clear difficulties with the sanctions.“ Canete said at a news conference alongside Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi. “We will have to ask for waivers. for carve-outs for the companies that make investments.“

Canete. the first Western official to visit Iran since the US announced its decision. was due to meet Iranian Minister of Environment Isa Kalantari and Minister of Oil Bijan Namdar Zanganeh yesterday. as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif today.

Salehi acknowledged Europe’s efforts to maintain the nuclear deal.

“We see the European Union … is making an extensive effort. They have promised to do so. and God willing. they will put that into practice.“ Salehi said.

Under the 2015 deal with major powers. Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions on the country. The sanctions were lifted in 2016.

European leaders have vowed to maintain the deal and introduce measures to encourage trade and protect EU firms from US sanctions. However. several of their companies — including Total SA and Maersk Line — have already said it would be impossible to stay in Iran once US sanctions are fully reimposed over the next six months. unless they receive explicit exemptions from Washington.

Iran’s trade with the EU is about 20 billion euros (US$23.6 billion). evenly split between imports and exports. The vast majority of EU purchases from Iran — 90 percent — are oil purchases. going primarily to Spain. France. Italy. Greece. the Netherlands and Germany.

Iran. which has the world’s fourth-biggest oil reserves. produces about 3.8 million barrels of oil per day. 70 percent of which goes to China and other Asian countries. and 20 percent to Europe.

It also has the second-biggest gas reserves in the world. but limited infrastructure means little is exported.

Russia and China — the other parties to the nuclear deal — have also vowed to maintain trade with Iran and. because they are less exposed to US markets. are less vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.

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