The European Union has blocked U.S. sanctions against Iran, warning that any country that cooperates with President Trump will face dire consequences.
The European Commission launched the process of activating a law on Friday that bans EU companies and EU states from complying with President Trump’s sanctions.
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“As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process of to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996. We will do that tomorrow morning at 1030,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
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“We also decided to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran. The Commission itself will maintain its cooperation will Iran,” Juncker told a news conference after a meeting of EU leaders.
Yahoo News reports: The EU leaders pledged at the meeting to keep a united front against Trump, whose decisions to pull out of the Iran deal and to impose trade tariffs on Europe have triggered the worst transatlantic crisis since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
EU President Donald Tusk renewed attacks on Trump at the summit Thursday, suggesting that the US administration was now as unpredictable as Iran’s regime.
“The real geopolitical problem is not when you have an unpredictable opponent or enemy, the problem is if your closest friend is unpredictable. It’s not a joke now,” Tusk told a news conference with Juncker.
Tusk on Wednesday had slammed Trump’s “capricious assertiveness”, comparing him to Europe’s traditional adversaries Russia and China, and saying Trump’s approach had left the EU with “no illusions” that it could rely on anyone else.
China, Russia and EU members Britain, France and Germany were also signatories of the Iran nuclear accord, and have said they will stick to the deal if Tehran respects its terms.
Beijing and Moscow have also stepped up efforts to save the deal.
On Thursday, a Russian-led trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signalled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.
In the Kazakh capital Astana, the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran that lowers tariffs on hundreds of goods.
Russian firms have less to lose from bucking US sanctions. Many major Russian companies are already operating under tightening US sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and its role in the Ukraine crisis.
– ‘Reinforce China’ –
Meanwhile, Iran’s oil minister said that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran.
Beijing also signalled that it intends to continue “normal and transparent practical cooperation with Iran”.
The US says its sanctions apply to any transactions that are conducted in dollars, which are used in most international transactions, in particular in trading of crude oil.
But China has for years been working to increase trade using its currency and in March a yuan-denominated oil contract was launched in Shanghai.
Trump’s withdrawal from the deal is now likely to boost China’s influence in the region, a European diplomatic source warned.
“The Iran issue will probably reinforce China in the region, because the European businesses that can’t take on the cost of difficulties on their American markets will leave an important gap for a power that seems to have no problem with taking their place,” the source said.