EU claims Iran deal held together at Vienna meeting

The EU’s sanctions-busting Instex mechanism for trade with Iran is operational, an EU official has confirmed

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and Secretary General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmit attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria. Reuters
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and Secretary General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmit attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria. Reuters

A senior EU diplomat has said the first transactions were being made by a special purpose vehicle for trade with Iran at a meeting of the remaining members of the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna.

Friday’s meeting in Vienna featured “constructive discussions,” Helga Schmid, the head of the EU diplomatic service said, confirming the entity, named Instex, was making its first transactions.

“INSTEX now operational, first transactions being processed and more EU Members States to join. Good progress on Arak and Fordow [fuel enrichment] projects,” she posted.

The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex) is designed to facilitate trade of essential goods, such as food and medicine, mainly from the EU to Iran. A Chinese official said Beijing was open to using the facility.

The platform has been set up in France, with a German managing director in a coordinated European effort to counterbalance the US economic power displayed by its sanctions policy.

President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

He had repeatedly denounced the deal reached during the Obama administration between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, calling it “rotten,” and he reimposed US sanctions that had been lifted as part of the pact.

As the talks kicked off on Friday, seven EU nations expressed support for Instex and the JCPOA, asking Iran "to abide by and fully respect the terms and provisions of the nuclear agreement".

"We are working with France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as with the European External Action Service and the European Commission, to establish channels to facilitate legitimate trade and financial operations with Iran, one of the foremost of these initiatives being the establishment of Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges," read the statement from Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Whether the declaration of support and first tranche of transactions will be enough to keep Iran committed to the 2015 nuclear deal is still in question.

The members have contributed just a few million Euros in capital to the body.

The Iranian delegation leader Abbas Araqchi expressed Iranian doubts over the European approach but said the meeting was constructive.

He said the other countries had promised to reinforce the platform over time. “They have promised to consider soon enabling other countries to use Instex. The process has started, though very late and much less than our expectations,” he said.

“Instex will not be able to fully meet our expectations. Europeans need to consider purchase of our oil. Our expectations have not been met fully, but I think the positive steps taken, are worth-considering.”

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan, Mr Trump said that “there’s no rush” to ease the tensions with Iran.

“There’s absolutely no time pressure,” he added. “I think that in the end, hopefully, it’s going to work out. If it does, great. And if doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about it.”

Updated: June 28, 2019 08:49 PM

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