France Wants US Guarantees on Iran Sanctions

France Wants US Guarantees on Iran SanctionsFrance Wants US Guarantees on Iran Sanctions

The United States must deliver concrete guarantees that European firms will not be penalized for trading with Iran should sanctions on Tehran be re-imposed, France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

The lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran by the West could begin in the first quarter of 2016 if Iran meets its obligations under a deal struck with major powers in July, which will place time-bound constraints on Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Western firms have sought to renew commercial ties with Tehran in light of the deal, but last month Washington cautioned against rushing to invest in Iran until it fully complies, Reuters reported.

French firms, once very active in Iran, were among those to have faced heavy penalties for violating sanctions.

“The attitude of the Americans is cooperative, but now we want that to be turned into something concrete so that the same thing doesn’t happen again,” Laurent Fabius told lawmakers ahead of next week’s visit by President Hassan Rouhani to France.

BNP Paribas was fined almost $9 billion in 2014 for transactions violating US embargoes. This week, Deutsche Bank paid a $258 million penalty to settle charges that it did business on behalf of entities in US-sanctioned countries like Iran and Syria.

Fabius said since the nuclear talks, two missions with French, British and German representatives had visited the United States to discuss the issue.

The minister said his visit to Iran and that of a delegation of French business lobby group Medef had aimed to nurture ties and prospective contracts, but companies would need financing from French banks for those to move ahead.

Immediately after the nuclear deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry had pledged that the US authorities would ensure European firms would not be subject to penalties once sanctions had lifted.

But diplomats and executives say firms also want guarantees from the United States that they would be safe if sanctions were re-imposed. Without such assurances, businesses would remain prudent before committing themselves, they said.

Iran is counting on an end to sanctions to boost its economy, particularly its oil and gas sector.