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US sanctions war against Iran prompts fight-back from Europe

European chairpersons said Thursday they will do their utmost to protect the province’s companies from the adverse effects of U.S. sanctions on Iran as they met at a European Confederating (EU) summit.

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian atomic deal will not only see sanctions re-imposed on Tehran, although the limitation of these is unknown, but is likely to include extra-territorial “secondary sanctions” too. These could hit European stiffs doing business in Iran and is a topic high on the agenda for EU leaders congress in Sofia, Bulgaria, today.

European companies including Total, Maersk and Allianz oblige signaled that they could exit Iran, fearing they could be hit by U.S. prices for doing business there.

French President Emmanuel Macron denoted Thursday that the EU must protect its companies trading with Iran. “Ecumenical companies with interests in many countries make their own choices, go together to their own interests. They should continue to have this free hand,” he told reporters as he arrived at the EU-Western Balkans summit.

The U.S. withdrawal from the atomic deal — which was brokered by Washington alongside U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China in 2015 — has worn out criticism from the rest of its signatories. But their focus has moved from tiresome to persuade the U.S. to salvage the deal to seeing whether they can maintain it without Trump. Keep safe European companies is a key concern.

Arriving at the summit Thursday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite state the EU was looking at “technical solutions” to protect its companies, including a “blocking” clause that “could entirely protect European companies working in Iran.” She said that it was well-connected to remain a part of the deal, however, in order to be able to influence it.

On Tuesday, the EU’s boss of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, met with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Iran and the U.K. The Europeans covenanted then to explore “maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran,” involving the continued sale of Iran’s oil and gas and banking transactions with Tehran. The colloidal solutions might not be that simple, however.

There had been talk of advantaging European powers to ban banks in the region from complying with U.S. permissions, but European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Thursday that any such trick would be of “limited effectiveness.”

Speaking to the EU parliament, Dombrovskis said “the EU stumbling-block regulation could be of limited effectiveness there, given the international kidney of the banking system and especially the exposure of large systemic banks to the U.S. pecuniary system and U.S. dollar transactions,” Reuters reported.

European firms are cautious about the prospect of penalties for doing business with Iran, with French oil visitors Total, Danish shipping group Moller-Maersk and German insurance superhuman Allianz all announcing they are preparing to exit Iran in order to tend their own interests.

On Thursday, Maersk Chief Executive Soren Skou bid he was certain the company was “going to shut down” in Iran. “With the okays the Americans are to impose, you can’t do business in Iran if you also have business in the U.S., and we would rather that on a large scale,” he told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Total published Wednesday that it is set to pull-out of a billion dollar gas deal in Iran, baptized the South Pars 11 (SP11) project. In a statement, Total communicated it planned to “to unwind all related operations before November 4 unless Amount is granted a specific project waiver by the U.S. authorities with the support of the French and European specialists.”

American banks are involved in more than 90 percent of Amount to’s financing operations, American shareholders represent more than 30 percent of its shareholding, and U.S. assets characterize as more than $10 billion of capital employed. Total divulged it “cannot afford to be exposed to any secondary sanction, which might number the loss of financing in dollars by U.S. banks for its worldwide operations, the loss of its U.S. shareholders or the ineptitude to continue its U.S. operations.

“In these circumstances, Total will not take any in addition commitment related to the SP11 project.”

European states tried to persuade Trump to not withdraw from the deal, but earlier in May the president boosted the decision to renege on what he called a “horrible” agreement. Trump thought Iran had flouted the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Aim of Action (JCPOA), which saw international sanctions on the regime dropped in profit for Iran curbing its nuclear program.

Trump said the deal had not take a broke Tehran developing its ballistic missile program and disagreed with pretended “sunset clauses” that would allow Iran to re-start at a later age its nuclear program — seen by Iran’s critics as a way for the nation to build atomic weapons.

His secondary sanctions would target companies and banks that traffic, invest or financially transact with the Iranian government, companies or owns. Any that do could entail fines. When announcing the U.S.’ withdrawal, Trump surrendered firms up to six months to wind down their business dealings with Tehran.

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