EU’s Mogherini Admits Need to Underpin JCPOA

EU’s Mogherini Admits Need to Underpin JCPOA
EU’s Mogherini Admits Need to Underpin JCPOA

The European Union's top diplomat sees the growth in Iran-EU ties after last July's nuclear deal as evidence that the accord is achieving its intended goals, but acknowledges more encouragement is needed to convince foreign firms to enter Iran's lucrative market.

Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear program in return for relief from international sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the pact is formally known.

But it has repeatedly expressed frustration and dismay over the lack of access to financing, funds and insurance from abroad that it had expected to help jump-start its sanctions-hit economy.

Residual US restrictions, including a ban on clearing Iran-related transactions through America's financial system, has made overseas banks and companies steer clear of deals with Iranians on fears of possible US retribution over even an unwitting sanctions violation.

Iran has called on the United States government to do more to ease the concerns and has sought European leverage to put pressure on Washingtonian policy and decision makers.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended a press conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum in Norway on Tuesday, IRNA reported.

In response to a question about Tehran's grievances, Mogherini said, "We are still pursuing the issue. We believe that sanctions have been removed and the evidence of this is a 22% increase in Iran-EU trade over the past four months. But more work remains to be done to persuade companies to go into business with the Iranians."

"We are very actively engaging with the business community and the banks in Europe and elsewhere to encourage engaging in Iran," she added.

***Psychological Barrier

Zarif complained that Washington had not done enough to reassure anxious businesses and address their understandable concerns about US policy and direction vis-à-vis Iran and the JCPOA.

"I believe the United States has removed all the sanctions on paper. Regarding the banks, I believe it is important for everybody to realize that an agreement will be sustainable if everybody feels they are making gains from the agreement… Its implementation must also be a win-win game so that everybody feels there are benefits, there are dividends" he said.  

"The United States has eased its sanctions, but the psychological impact of the sanctions persist. So we expect the US to play a far more active role," Zarif added.

He held bilateral talks with Mogherini earlier in the morning and was to meet his American counterpart John Kerry today.

In a relevant development, Zarif's deputy Abbas Araqchi met EU political director Helga Schmid.

***Ultimatum to US

A member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said today's meeting between Zarif and Kerry should be used to issue an ultimatum to the US to honor its commitments under the JCPOA.

"In case the US breaches the deal, the Majlis would use its mandate to scrap the action plan," Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told ICANA.

He lamented that US measures continue to hinder Iran's reengagement with the world, despite denial by American government officials.

Kerry said last month the US is not opposed to foreign banks doing business with Iran in line with the JCPOA terms and released a joint statement with his British, French and German counterparts following mounting diplomatic pressure from Tehran, reaffirming their commitment to help address the issue of sanctions.