While denying that Iran’s oil-for-goods deal with Russia is part of a Tehran-Moscow cooperation package, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed his dissatisfaction with proposals by European countries.
During an interview with Euronews' Global Conversation, Zarif made clear that the European side needs to be resolute in their support for the JCPOA
Zarif demanded that “Iran should not be the only side in this deal that has been investing,”
Zarif said he does not believe the oil-for-goods deal is part of a cooperation package with Russia. "It’s a much bigger package, and it includes a lot of other variables, including possibilities for energy cooperation between Iran and Russia," he maintained.
Although Europe has politically committed itself to JCPOA, Zarif argued, “We have seen a political commitment on the part of Europe. We have seen some technical measures put on the ground. But these are not enough.”
Elaborating on what would be “enough” for Tehran, Zarif said, “If Europeans are interested indeed in preserving the deal, then they have to be prepared to invest for it. Iran should not be the only side in this deal that has been investing. We need to see banks opening accounts, we need to see SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) coming to Iran, engaging with their partners in the private sector, and so on and so forth.”
He added that “working with Europeans” has not yet ended. “Work is underway as we speak so that we test the possibility. We have given Europe some time. There are two very specific timeframes. One is the timeframe of the first batch of U.S. sanctions that will be in place in August, and the other timeframe is the second batch of U.S. sanctions, which will be in place in November. And we’ll see how Europe is dealing with this and we will respond, accordingly, and we have a very specific plan.”
However, Iranian authorities have so far preferred to keep the details of a European package secret and avoid elaboration on their “specific plan.”
Echoing Zarif’s dissatisfaction, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh also said on July 21 that Tehran is not happy with the package proposed by Europe.
On July 5, it was reported that members of the European Parliament had proposed a motion that, if passed, would allow the European Investment Bank (EIB) to cooperate with Tehran despite U.S. sanctions.
However the EIB remains skeptical about such moves. EIB President Werner Hoyer said that Iran is “where we cannot play an active role.”
The main concern for the EIB is if the organization will retain access to U.S. market for financing of its operations.
Euronews asked Zarif what Iran’s expectations are amid such an environment.
“We see that under pressure from the U.S., under the psychological atmosphere that the U.S. has tried to create, some European companies have already started to withdraw. And that should be confronted by the Europeans,” Zarif said. “There are many European companies, many of them have no exposure in the U.S., many of them have no dealings with the U.S. [that can come forward and cooperate with Tehran].”
Despite Zarif’s denial, the deputy chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture, Pedram Soltani, said on July 17 that exchanging oil for goods could be a way of getting around the U.S. sanctions re-imposed after the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal in May.
Such a tactic was employed during Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, when Iran struggled with international sanctions. Instead of directly paying for Iranian oil, special bank accounts were set up where oil buyers deposited money that could only be used to buy certain commodities.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on July 13 that a deal through which Russia would provide goods to Iran in exchange for oil is still a possibility. Moscow is studying the legal issues related to a possible deal, he said.
"We are interested in Iran having the opportunity to buy Russian goods, work, and services, to increase trade turnover and develop relations," Russian News Agency, TASS, cited Novak as saying.
The oil-for-goods program does not imply a direct purchase of oil from Tehran by Moscow, the minister said. "This is not the purchase by Russia and not by Russian enterprises," Novak added.