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Europe To Asia: A Clarion Call?

As the European Union (EU) has decided to defend the Iran nuclear deal at any cost in spite of Tehran’s decision to backtrack on its commitments in response to the sanctions by the US, the 28-member bloc plans to urge China and India to help resolve the crisis!
Top European diplomats have advised Brussels to contact the two Asian friends of Iran immediately to save the deal! It is to be noted that both Beijing and New Delhi had decided to import oil from Tehran, ignoring the US sanctions… Now, the EU, too, believes that the deal could be saved by allowing Iran to sell oil to China and India… According to sources close to Brussels, the three European powerhouses – Britain, France and Germany, who signed the deal along with the US, China and Russia in 2015 – are confident that they can compensate for the US withdrawal from the accord with the help of China and India. A senior European diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, has stated that the proposed move would not only protect the global trade, but would also prevent Iran from developing a Nuclear Bomb.

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EU Headquarters in Brussels

At the same time, the diplomat has admitted that as the Iranian economy is heavily dependent on crude exports traded in US dollars, it would not be easy for the European trade channel to bypass the US sanctions! “This situation now risks deteriorating, but it will be step by step and not a collapse all in one go,” he insisted. According to the seasoned French diplomat, the last preferred option could be Iran’s phased exit from the deal…
Europe still considers the Iran accord as one of the West’s biggest Foreign Policy achievements. However, US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in May 2018, claiming that the accord did not curtail the West Asian nation’s Ballistic Missile Programme! President Trump further claimed that his move would certainly prompt Iran to renegotiate a broader Arms Control Deal. Meanwhile, the EU said that it could still be done without damaging the nuclear accord. According to the European bloc, the deal has put strict limits on Iranian enrichment!

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President Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the American withdrawal

Interestingly, diplomats advised the EU to seek help from China and India soon after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that Tehran would resume enrichment at a higher grade, had the EU, China and Russia decided not to counter the US sanctions. Talking to the media in Brussels a couple of days ago, a senior EU official said that they still have time to save the deal. “Iran’s announcements are not a violation or a withdrawal of the nuclear deal. It is for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess Iran’s compliance… if Iran breaches the agreement, then we would react,” he stressed.
Once, Iran was Europe’s biggest supplier of crude oil. However, the Iranian exports have gradually cut off from European buyers by sanctions, with the US removing the last waivers to Italy and Greece on May 2. China, India and Turkey, too, have lost their waivers. As Iran needs to export around 1.5 million barrels per day to keep its economy afloat, Russia has proposed the EU to use its special trade channel, INSTEX, as a barter system for Iranian oil in exchange for European goods! However, a section of European diplomats is of the opinion that it is difficult to accept Moscow’s suggestion. “INSTEX isn’t the solution because it will only serve food and medicine needs, not oil,” stressed another European diplomat.

President Rouhani

After considering the scenario, Europe has planned to request China and India to continue importing Iranian oil. The top political leadership in Beijing has already declared that it would oppose unilateral US sanctions against Iran and would also defend the rights of its companies, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang saying that the Iran deal should be fully and effectively implemented. Although India has reduced its Iran oil purchase since November, New Delhi has shown interest in joining INSTEX to import oil from Iran! The EU believes that it would be easier to convince India to further increase its oil purchase from Iran.
Commenting on the issue, Senior Research Fellow with the Middle East North Africa Programme at Chatham House Sanam Vakil said: “It shows Europe’s impotence that they are pushing China and India to do what they can’t. I’m not sure the Europeans are thinking in a big way about what to do. It’s very clear there are no meaningful economic options they can offer Iran.” She also said that the three European powers should start high-level diplomacy in order to kick-start negotiations between the deal’s remaining stakeholders and Washington.

India could be the best bet for Europe, as the South Asian nation enjoys ‘friendly’ diplomatic ties with Iran, Russia, Britain, France and Germany!

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