The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, on Tuesday encouraged companies to do more business with Iran despite new U.S. sanctions, The Associated Press reported.
Mogherini insisted that Tehran had upheld its commitments under the 2015 deal to limit its nuclear program.
Speaking to reporters during her trip to Wellington, New Zealand, she added that it's up to Europeans to decide whom they want to trade with.
"We are doing our best to keep Iran in the deal, to keep Iran benefiting from the economic benefits that the agreement brings to the people of Iran because we believe this is in the security interests of not only our region, but also of the world," she said, according to AP.
"If there is one piece of international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation that is delivering, it has to be maintained," added Mogherini.
Her comments came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order officially reinstating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The sanctions target Iran's access to American dollars and steel and automobile industries, ban trade with Iran in gold and other precious metals, and include other sanctions which were lifted under the 2015 deal.
Additional sanctions will be imposed on November 4, targeting Iran's oil and shipping industries.
The sanctions were reimposed three months after Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
The European signatories to the deal did not agree with Trump’s move and are trying to save the accord, which they see as crucial to forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon.
The European Union issued a "blocking statute" Monday to protect European businesses from the impact of the sanctions.
Mogherini, speaking at a news conference alongside New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, said the EU and New Zealand saw the need to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran, notwithstanding the U.S. withdrawal, and that she and Peters had discussed in detail how to keep open trade and financial channels with Iran.
"We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something (that) for us is a security priority," Mogherini said, explaining that trade is an integral part of the nuclear deal.
Trade between Iran and the EU "is a fundamental aspect of the Iranian right to have an economic advantage in exchange for what they have done so far, which is being compliant with all their nuclear-related commitments," she added.