Six more European countries announced Friday that they have joined Instex, the EU financial mechanism set up to facilitate trade with Iran despite U.S. sanctions.
Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden will now be part of INSTEX which launched in January of this year.
Germany, Britain and France kickstarted the mechanism in January under pressure from Iran that has been demanding trade to stay in the 2015 nuclear agreement known as JCPOA.
The three European countries are signatories of JCPOA.
But Instex remained inactive as U.S. countered Iranian pressures and warned Europe not to engage in activity that would violate its sanctions. In May Iran began a gradual withdrawal from the nuclear accord, by increasing its uranium enrichment.
The six countries appealed to Iran to “return without delay to full compliance with the terms and provisions of the nuclear agreement.”
The United States imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018.
Iran has been frustrated and pessimistic because of the slow progress by the European countries with Chairman of the Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, saying in March that “"INSTEX does not meet all of Iran's expectations."
Most recently Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif chided the European countries publicly in a Tweet shortly before the fresh wave of protests in Iran accusing them of “procrastinating” and claiming that Iran has honored its part of the JCPOA.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called INSTEX a "meaningless" measure and "a bitter joke,"
Iran has however taken steps to increase uranium enrichment in its Fordow nuclear facility. The Iranian nuclear agency announced on November 4 that it has taken steps to enrich Uranium to 4.5 %, exceeding the JCPOA commitment of staying at 3.67% enrichment level and the 300 Kilogram stockpile of enriched Uranium allowed by the 2015 deal.
Iran has threatened up to 20 percent enrichment, which would make it much easier to reach 90% enriched uranium which is needed to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile the U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell decried the timing of the announcement by the six countries soon after 161 people were killed protests in Iran according to Amnesty International.
Grenell replied to a tweet of the Norwegian Foreign Minister who was lauding its country’s step of joining Instex, saying “Why fund the Iranian regime while it’s killing the Iranian people and shutting off the internet?
A Former US National Security Council Assistant for the Middle East, Rob Malley, told Reuters in February that INSTEX is "a symbolic political move" that can encourage Iran to remain committed to the JCPOA.
Iran launched its counterpart to Instex on April 29. The Iranian STFI has been devised to work in tandem Instex, designed to facilitate limited trade with Iran.