European countries are trying to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal by preserving enough of the deal’s economic benefits to convince Tehran to stay committed to the deal. Yet, the US decision to punish the companies doing business with Iran could have a negative impact on the European businesses and undermine Tehran’s willingness to stick with the accord. Talks on what to do next to salvage the nuclear deal will kick off next week, with French, British and German foreign ministers and diplomats on board.
While US President Donald Trump announced that his country would pull out of the deal, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have said that they would stay compliant with the nuclear accord. French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and pressed him to keep implementing the deal while also considering Paris’ proposal for a new international framework that would address Iran’s ballistic missiles and its nuclear program. The White House said that it would like the US and its European allies – and possibly also Iran – to hammer out a new deal together.
Mr. Rouhani responded that Iran was open to the idea of keeping the deal alive following negotiations with the European countries. However, there are some in the Iranian leadership that are against of such an idea. “It is said that we will continue with these three European countries,” said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referring to the UK, France and Germany. “I don’t trust these three countries either.”
Europeans have a lot at stake. For months, Brussels officials have been exploring economic and legal options for protecting the deal and encouraging European companies to keep doing business with Iran despite the possibility of sanctions by the White House. EU-Iran trade last year was nearly triple 2015 levels at €21 billion ($24.96 billion) but this pick-up was mostly driven by energy imports since many European banks had been wary of the possible repercussions.