European firms can still buy oil from Iran as some companies don’t have interests in the United States and aren’t concerned about the U.S. sanctions on Tehran, former Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi, who is now the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, told French daily Le Monde in an interview this week.
The European companies that stopped importing Iranian oil after the U.S. re-imposed the sanctions in November seem to have decided to halt Iranian oil intake due to political reasons, according to an English translation of the Le Monde interview in Iranian outlet Mehr news agency.
“Italy and Greece stopped their purchases, while the US had granted them some waivers. This shows that those countries have made a political decision,” Kharrazi said, as carried by Mehr.
European companies, however, are wary of secondary U.S. sanctions if they trade with Iran, especially in oil, as the U.S. is seeking to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero and ended all sanction waivers it had initially extended for six months.
Last week, Iran said that it was suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal and threatened to resume enriching uranium to a higher level if the remaining signatories to the deal—the EU, Russia, and China—don’t fulfill within 60 days their commitments to Iran, including protecting Iranian oil trade from U.S. sanctions.
The EU and the foreign ministers of the UK, France, and Germany, responded on the day after the Iranian ultimatum that “We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPoA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons).”
Yet, the ministers and the EU High Representative said in their statement that “We are determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran, including through the operationalization of the special purpose vehicle ‘INSTEX’”—the special purpose payment vehicle that the EU set up earlier this year.