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Europe Plans Bank Accounts For Iran To Ease Repatriation Of Oil Revenues


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R), British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (R), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (2nd R) and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini meeting in Brussels May 15.

The Wall Street Journal quoted “several European officials” on July 16 as having said that three European states are about to open new accounts or activate old accounts for the Iranian Central Bank in spite of US sanctions in what it described as “the first concrete sign that Europe could deliver on its promise” to sustain the Iranian nuclear deal.

Iran, in return, would need to implement legislation to meet anti-money-laundering standards set by an international watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the officials said. This comes while last week Iranian hardliners overturned the Rouhani administration’s decision to join the FATF.

“The French, British and German governments have told Iran they are exploring activating accounts for the Iranian central bank with their national central banks in a bid to open a financial channel to keep alive the Iranian nuclear deal, according to several European officials,” wrote the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ article, however, noted that the measure would set European governments squarely against the Trump administration sanction policy aimed at isolating Tehran economically.

US President Donald Trump reiterated on the same day in an interview with Fox News that the nuclear deal with Iran the US withdrew from in May “is good for a lot of countries that do business with Iran, but it is not good for this country [U.S.] and it is not ultimately good for the world.”

Iran stayed in the nuclear deal with the West, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) following the US withdrawal, but said it will remain in the deal if the remaining parties to the deal would guarantee Tehran’s benefits.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei further conditioned Iran’s staying in the deal to Europe’s offering “practical guarantees” for Iran to benefit from the JCPOA and to secure its oil exports and revenues.

The most important benefit of the 2015 deal for Iran was the lifting of US and international sanctions that had paralyzed Iran’s economy prior to the nuclear deal.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the European officials as saying that “the option of European central banks activating Iranian central bank accounts—or reactivating some which have been dormant for years—is one of several that European governments are actively exploring.”

According to the WSJ, the officials said other European governments, including Austria and Sweden, have also said they would consider doing likewise.

Nevertheless, government officials in European countries are aware that European banks are reluctant to forge financial links with Iran while the United States is preparing to impose further sanctions on Iran in November.

European banks have made no comment on the officials’ suggestion of offering the opportunity to Iran.

Meanwhile, IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency carried the WSJ report on its website on July 17, adding that “US officials have repeatedly said that European companies and people could be targeted if they continue doing business in Iran once US sanctions fully snap back in November.”

It was only last week when Washington turned down Europeans’ request to exempt companies in Europe from US sanctions.

On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc was determined to follow through despite the US refusal to grant exemptions. “I don’t see this reply as bringing anything new to the work we’re doing,” Tasnim quoted her as saying of the US response.

Iran hopes that by activating bank accounts in Europe in euros, pounds and other currencies for its Central Bank in Europe, “it could more easily repatriate global oil export revenues—or at least use that revenue to purchase key products in Europe,” Tasnim reported.

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