The European Union implemented its new sanctions against Iran on Wednesday, targeting the country’s energy, transportation and bank sectors with additional restrictions.
The robust economic penalties were approved in July. On Wednesday, the EU spelled them out in a 104-page document.
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“Iran refused to respect UN and IAEA resolutions,” and the new round of EU sanctions are effective today, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton, said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Post
that the EU sanctions “are part and parcel of the international effort to deliver a firm message to Iran. It is part of a continuous effort not to allow Iran to become a nuclear military power.”
Kocijancic said the 27 member-states of the EU are “following a twin track approach” to Iran. The EU, mirroring the US strategy, is combining incentives and penalties in an effort to compel the Islamic Republic to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
“We believe the only viable solution will be a negotiated solution to peaceful use of nuclear energy” in Iran, she added.
Asked if a negotiating session has been scheduled with Teheran, Kocijancic said “we are waiting for a response from Iran.”
In contrast to the recent US State Department decision to place sanctions on individual Iranian officials because of human rights violations, the EU, according to Kocijancic, did not address such issues in its document. The EU devotes “a lot of attention” to the human rights situation in Iran, and its foreign ministers are set to address continued repression of human rights “in the the future,” she said.
The new EU sanctions, which are significantly tougher than the fourth round of UN sanctions approved by the Security Council in June, could affect a number of active EU-Iranian gas deals.
A case in point is British energy giant BP’s Rhum gas project in the North Sea.
The Rhum gas field, which is located off the coast of Scotland, is jointly owned by BP and Iranian Oil Company UK Ltd.
David Nicholas, a BP spokesman, told the Pos
t that “we will look at them [EU regulations]” to review the new EU sanctions’ impact on the Rhum gas field.
Nicholas said BP would discuss the results of the analysis with the UK government.
“We will comply with the law,” he said.
He could not comment on whether the Iranian Oil Company has ties to the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank and an authority on energy sanctions, first disclosed the BP-Iran Rhum gas field project on CNN and in Time
magazine earlier this year.
“A fragile political consensus exists in favor of sanctions in Europe. If the Obama administration doesn’t provide determined leadership by either sanctioning foreign companies which are violating US law, or persuading these companies to terminate their Iranian ties, European governments will not enforce their own sanctions, Dubowitz told the Post
“There is no substitute for American leadership. Connoisseurs of power politics – Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao and Ali Khamenei – are watching. So is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will decide one of these days whether a nuclear-armed Iran is acceptable, or not,” he said.
Dubowitz was also quoted in Wednesday’s Zurich-based Handelszeitung business newspaper, calling for Swiss energy giant Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg (EGL) “to stand on the right side” and cancel its €18 billion-€20 billion gas deal with Iran.
EGL, which is largely a government-owned enterprise, is facing intense scrutiny from US Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) in connection with a new round of US Iran sanctions legislation meant to plug holes in the law. Sherman was a leading architect of the US sanctions bill that became law in July.
Separately, the new EU sanctions include an exemption for the Nabucco pipeline project’s development of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz natural gas field.
Iran’s Swiss-based Naftiran Intertrade company owns 10 percent of the Shah Deniz field. Washington sanctioned Naftiran Intertrade in September for violating its enhanced legislation against Iran.
When asked if Nabucco plans to transport Iranian gas through the
pipeline, Christian Dolezal, a Nabucco spokesman, responded to the Post
by email on Wednesday by saying “no.” He added that “in the feed-line
concept of the Nabucco pipeline, Iran is not planned for.”
whether Nabucco will continue to participate in the Shah Deniz gas field
project, even though Iran has a stake in its development, Dolezal wrote
that Nabucco will “follow the EU... regulations.”
Nabucco will neither buy nor trade gas but will provide “transport services,” he said.
to Dolezal, “Nabucco’s stakeholders are negotiating at this time supply
contracts... where it is economically and politically possible.”