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Europe refuses to give Iran guarantees on trade

European powers have refused to give Iran guarantees that it will receive the economic benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal after US withdrawal, as more companies announced winding down business in the country.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned ahead of a meeting with his British, French and German counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday that there was not much time for them to deliver those assurances.

“Guarantees of benefits of the JCPOA should be given to Iran. We will have to see whether those remaining in the JCPOA can deliver those benefits to Iran,” he was quoted as saying upon arrival in the Belgian capital.

But the Europeans remained non-committal, only pledging to keep the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran’s oil and investment flowing.

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“We all agreed that we have a relative in intensive care and we all want to get him or her out of intensive care as quickly as possible,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after the 90-minute meeting.

She said Iran and the Europeans will be working over the coming weeks to find practical solutions which will include continuing to sell Iran’s oil and gas products, maintaining effective banking transactions and protecting European investments in Iran.

As for the assurances, Mogherini said, “I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side.”

The US has given companies a 180-day wind-down period before the sanctions are reimposed on Iran and some European companies have taken heed in the absence of guarantees from their governments.

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Danish shipping companies Maersk Tankers and Torm were reported on Tuesday to have stopped taking new orders in Iran.

Even before Trump’s withdrawal, Iran had repeatedly complained to the Europeans about their failure to persuade companies into dealing with Tehran because banks in Europe are generally unwilling to handle transactions with the Islamic Republic.

On Tuesday, German insurer Allianz said it was preparing to wind down Iran-related business due to possible US sanctions.

“We are analyzing our portfolio to identify Iran-related business,” Reuters quoted an Allianz spokesman as saying.

“This analysis is ongoing and we are developing wind-down plans for relevant business to ensure appropriate termination within the defined periods,” he said.

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