Most French companies will find it impossible to continue doing business in Iran after the US imposes sanctions, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said today (Tuesday).
French energy giant Total and carmaker PSA, which includes Peugeot and Citroen, have said they are unlikely to stay in Iran. Renault has said it will remain despite the sanctions, partly because it does not sell cars in the US.
French employers “won’t be able to stay because they need to be paid for the products they deliver to or build in Iran, and they cannot be paid because there is no sovereign and autonomous European financial institution” with the power to protect them, Le Maire told broadcaster BFM.
Sanctions announced by Donald Trump last month after he broke the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would punish any firm operating in the country which also conducts trade with the US or in US dollars.
The other parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – said they remained committed to the deal so long as Iran honoured it.
“Our priority is to build independent, sovereign European financial institutions which would allow financing channels between French, Italian, German, Spanish and any other countries on the planet,” said Le Maire.
“It’s up to us Europeans to choose freely and with sovereign power who we want to do business with. The United States should not be the planet’s economic policeman.”
Tehran this month announced it had begun increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the accord collapsed.
But EU leaders have been trying to secure exemptions for companies which rushed into Iran after the deal limiting the country’s nuclear programme was signed by former president Barack Obama.
Observers fear it is almost impossible to protect corporations from the reach of the “extraterritorial” sanctions from Washington because of the exposure of large banks to the financial system and dollar transactions.
The first round of sanctions, targeting Iranian car production and civil aviation, is scheduled to be implemented on August 6.
Iran’s President Hassan Rohani is due to visit Austria and Switzerland in early July.
Both the US and Saudi Arabia rely on Switzerland to represent their interests in Tehran.
Rohani is due in Switzerland on July 2-3 to hold talks with President Alain Berset to “find ways of preserving the progress made as a result of the agreement and of ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region”, the Swiss government said.
On July 4, Rohani is to meet Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Vienna said it would “support EU efforts to save the nuclear agreement with Iran”.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz. Iran looks set to return to being closed off to the west. Picture credit: Flickr