German foreign minister in Iran for talks on nuclear deal and EU payment system to bypass US sanctions; Maas to meet with Zarif, Rouhani; Iran boasts on its “unofficial or unconventional” oil sales.


Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived in Tehran on Monday for meetings with Iranian officials on the nuclear deal, mainly on the EU’s mechanism to bypass US sanctions, as Iran’s July deadline for a solution to its economic crisis looms closer.

The meeting will focus mainly on Britain, France and Germany’s “Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges” (INSTEX), a system that will allow the Islamic Republic to trade with European companies without relying on financial institutions as a means to bypass restrictions generated by US sanctions. The mechanism was developed by the European Commission and will include barter techniques and alternative payment channels to banks without the use of dollar currency. The EU claims INSTEX will provide avenues for financial provisions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, nuclear deal) with world powers, which they maintain will keep the deal alive.

Maas confirmed ahead of his meetings with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday that “all the formal requirements [for INSTEX] are in place now, and so I’m assuming we’ll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future.” He reiterated that “Germany, France, and Britain call for supporting the deal and we are fulfilling our commitments. We are doing our utmost to prevent the failure of the deal.”

Iran last month announced it would counter the United States’ sanctions, what it refers to as an ongoing “economic war”, by abandoning commitments under the nuclear deal. It set a deadline for July 7 for the remaining signatories of the JCPOA to find a solution to its dire economic crisis. Last month, an official from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran confirmed it had started to freeze some of its obligations under the nuclear deal, specifically its heavy water production and uranium enrichment at both the Natanz and Arak plants. Since then, the organization and Iranian officials continue to announce further violations and threaten to abandon the nuclear deal and have quadrupled its uranium enrichment production capacity.

In parallel, Iran continues to bypass US sanctions, specifically on its oil industry. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh boasted this weekend that “We have unofficial or unconventional sales, all of which are secret, because if they are made known America would immediately stop them…”

The Trump Administration withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in May of last year. It has since then placed several rounds of stringent sanctions on Iran. The United States has been clear that Iran must curb its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its efforts through its proxies in the region, to alleviate sanctions.



Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/