Today the European Union has decided to broaden restrictive measures on Iran. The steps have been agreed upon by the 27 Member States of the EU, at the Foreign Affairs Council. The targets of today’s decision are the sources of finance of Iran’s nuclear program. These new sanctions are designed to complement and reinforce previous action by the EU against the Iranian regime.
The EU’s objective is to develop a durable and positive relationship with Iran. There is great potential for a constructive partnership, from which both sides could draw benefits.
However, since 2005, the serious concerns over the Iranian nuclear program have dominated EU-Iran relations. A number of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions have been passed in relation to Iran. As a member of the UN, Iran is bound by these resolutions. However, resolutions in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 have not persuaded Iran to alter its current course.
In October 2011, the issue of Iran’s nuclear program descended further, with the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report. The report raised further concerns over the nature and intent of the Iranian nuclear program. The start of operations of enrichment of uranium to a level of up to 20%, in the deeply buried underground facility in Fordow near Qom, further aggravates concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran’s acceleration of enrichment activities is in flagrant violation of six UNSC Resolutions and eleven IAEA Board resolutions and contributes to increasing tensions in the region. Against this background and the lack of engagement from the Iranian side with the efforts aimed at constructive talks made by Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the E3+3, the EU has decided to extend sanctions. By targeting the sources of finance of the Iranian nuclear programme, the EU aims to starve the programme of money and so encourage Iran back to the negotiating table.
EU sanctions are designed to persuade Iran to comply with its international obligations and construction development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes.
The EU has consistently argued that the best way to solve the impasse is through constructive negotiations. The EU remains committed to achieving a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme, while respecting Iran’s legitimate rights to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in conformity with the Non Proliferation Treaty. Catherine Ashton, as the designated negotiator on behalf of the E3+3, has always signalled her readiness to resume talks.
Who do the sanctions target?
It is important to note that EU sanctions are not targeted at the Iranian people, but rather those individuals and entities that are bankrolling Iran’s nuclear programme. Today the EU banned imports of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products. The prohibition concerns import, purchase and transport of such products as well as related finance and insurance. Already concluded contracts can still be executed until 1 July 2012. A review of the measures relating to oil and petroleum products will take place before 1 May 2012. In addition, the EU outlawed imports of petrochemical products from Iran into the EU, as well as the export of key equipment and technology for this sector to Iran. New investment in petrochemical companies in Iran as well as joint ventures with such enterprises are also no more allowed.
The EU also froze the assets of the Iranian central bank within the EU, while ensuring that legitimate trade can continue under strict conditions. Trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds with Iranian public bodies and the Central Bank will no longer be permitted, nor will the delivery of Iranian-denominated banknotes and coinage to the Iranian Central Bank. A number of additional sensitive dual-use goods may not be sold to Iran. Finally, the EU subjected three more persons to an asset freeze and a visa ban. It also froze the assets of eight further entities.