The UK, Germany and France circumvented Iran sanctions Tuesday morning by using Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges for the first time to send medical goods to Iran in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
INSTEX, the sanctions-busting mechanism that allows non-US dollar and non-SWIFT transactions with Iran, was established in January 2019 and is headquartered in Paris. Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland and Sweden are also parties to it.
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom confirm that INSTEX has successfully concluded its first transaction, facilitating the export of medical goods from Europe to Iran,” the German Foreign Office said in a statement. “These goods are now in Iran.”
INSTEX is a way to allow for trade between Europe and Iran and preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, it said.
The US pulled out of JCPOA in 2018, instituting sanctions due to Iran’s continued funding of terrorism and development of ballistic-missile capabilities.
“INSTEX and its Iranian counterpart STFI [Special Trade and Finance Instrument] will work on more transactions and enhancing the mechanism,” the statement said.
In addition, Switzerland has been operating a humanitarian and medical channel to Iran since February.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed European countries for joining INSTEX last year. But Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said "Israel has no problem with medical supplies being sent to the Iranian people; in fact, we encourage it."Still, Danon added that "as long as the regime continues pursuing nuclear capabilities and expanding its regional terror network, sanctions on the regime must remain in place.""This effort by some European nations will not help the Iranian people in the long run," he said. "It will only empower the evil regime.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “Israel has no problem with medical supplies being sent to the Iranian people; in fact, we encourage it.”
“As long as the regime continues pursuing nuclear capabilities and expanding its regional terror network, sanctions on the regime must remain in place,” he said.
“This effort by some European nations will not help the Iranian people in the long run,” Danon said. “It will only empower the evil regime.”
Netanyahu slammed European countries for joining INSTEX last year. But a Foreign Ministry source said Israel would not oppose use of the mechanism for humanitarian aid.
Iranian Health Minister Saeid Namaki on Monday said his country was not experiencing a shortage of special drugs in the fight against coronavirus.
“It is hard to fight the coronavirus under sanctions,” he said.
The pro-Islamic Republic network Tasnim News first reported Namaki’s comments amid calls to lift US sanctions against Iran’s regime for medical reasons.
UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric last week said there was a shortage of medicine and medical equipment in Iran, where there have been 2,898 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a video of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying, “Our efforts are aimed at bringing back our money seized in other countries,” with the message: “Startling revelation… that the regime’s concerted effort to lift US sanctions isn’t about fighting the pandemic. It’s about cash for the regime’s leaders.”
Critics of Iran’s rulers, including the US government, believe the mullah regime will use the funds from sanctions relief to advance terrorism in the Middle East. America has classified the Iranian regime as the worst state sponsor of terrorism.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.