EU countries not persuaded to back Iran sanctions

France, Britain and Germany struggling to persuade their EU partners to back new sanctions on Iran, say diplomats.

Elad Benari ,

European Union flag
European Union flag

France, Britain and Germany are struggling to persuade their EU partners to back new sanctions on Iran to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal, diplomats said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Italy is reportedly doubting whether the measures can stop the United States from pulling out of the deal in May, the report said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has blasted the 2015 nuclear deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated”, recently decided to extend a waiver on nuclear sanctions that were imposed on Iran.

However, he made clear it was the last time he would extend the waiver and has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the deal.

At a closed-door meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday, London, Paris and Berlin sought EU support for formal approval of the new sanctions in April, according to Reuters.

But Italy, with support from Spain and Austria, resisted plans to impose travel bans and asset freezes on around 15 Iranians, companies and groups, linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program and role in Syria’s war.

Rome said they would not be enough to persuade Trump not to withdraw from the nuclear deal and would endanger burgeoning business ties with Iran. Spain was also wary of the knock-on effects.

Under EU rules, economic sanctions need unanimous support.

“Italy said dialogue was the preferred option and that sanctions could weaken our position while not convincing the United States,” the diplomat told Reuters. “Spain asked the three to consider the implications of such a move.”

In Brussels, other countries including Sweden were upset that the three European powers were trying to push things through the EU’s diplomatic approval process so quickly.

“There was a commando approach, but it failed,” a second EU diplomat told Reuters.

“The difference here is that everyone thinks Trump will pull out (of the Iran deal) and so some consider this pointless.”

The three countries are in talks with the U.S. administration to see what could encourage Trump to issue new waivers on U.S. sanctions.

Any Iranians targeted would be subject to asset freezes and bans on travelling to the EU or doing business with companies based in the bloc.

Trump has raised concerns over the failure of the Iran nuclear deal to tackle the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

Western countries say Iran’s ballistic missile tests are a violation of the UN resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran denies it is in violation of any UN resolutions and categorically rules out any negotiations on its missile program.