The United States and its European partners on Thursday made a fresh appeal for European banks and businesses to invest in Iran now that most of the sanctions against the Islamic Republic have been lifted.
Following a meeting in Brussels between Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and their counterparts from France, Germany and the UK, the governments pledged to provide more information and assistance to encourage companies to resume business ties with Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“We will not stand in the way of permitted business activity with Iran and we will not stand in the way of international firms or financial institutions’ engaging with Iran, as long as they follow all applicable laws,” they said in a joint statement quoted by the newspaper.
Most international economic, financial and energy sanctions on Iran were lifted in mid-January 2016, when the nuclear agreement took effect.
The lifting of the sanctions came even though Kerry admitted that a good portion of the massive funds released to Iran will go to terror.
While the sanctions were lifted, foreign firms—especially European banks—have been reluctant to start or resume business in Iran because of the risk that they will run afoul of continued U.S. sanctions on Iran.
As a result of the nuclear deal, Washington suspended a broad range of measures that targeted foreign firms for engaging with Iran but kept in place most of the “primary sanctions”—restrictions preventing U.S. firms from doing business in Iran.
Those sanctions include a ban on dollar-denominated transactions, though recent reports said that the Obama administration is considering easing those restrictions.
Iran claims the U.S. hasn’t done enough to encourage banks to do business with Iran. Several European banks paid huge fines in recent years for breaching U.S. sanctions.
Thursday’s meeting is the latest effort to tackle the problem, according to The Wall Street Journal. Kerry has discussed the issue with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and last week he sat down with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and the heads of some of Europe’s biggest banks in London to address firms’ concerns.
In Thursday’s statement, the newspaper noted, the governments said the EU and its member states were exploring various areas of cooperation with Iran, including the use of exports credits to boost trade, project financing and investment in Iran.
They also said that in addition to the guidance already given to firms, they will provide more information as needed.
“We understand that firms may continue to have specific sanctions-related questions or concerns about doing business in Iran, and we stand ready to provide expeditious clarifications,” they said, adding, “We encourage firms to approach our governments to address remaining questions, rather than forgo opportunities due to misperceptions or lack of information.”