EU urges all sides to stand by Iran nuclear deal

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, left, speaks with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2016
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EU urges all sides to stand by Iran nuclear deal

BRUSSELS: The EU on Monday urged all parties to the landmark Iran nuclear accord to stick to their commitments after US President-elect Donald Trump said he might ditch the deal.
It said it would keep pushing to restore ties with Iran in line with last year’s nuclear deal.
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said the deal signed last year with Iran by the United States, three EU powers as well as Russia and China must be respected as the bloc seeks to expand economic and other ties.
“The upholding of commitments by all sides is a necessary condition to continue rebuilding trust and allow for continued, steady and gradual improvement in relations between the European Union, its member States and Iran,” the ministers said in their conclusions.
The EU welcomed the fact that the US government was now issuing licenses for the export of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran and said it hoped they would continue.
Such sales “will be an important signal” for the deal’s implementation and contribute to a safer commercial aviation environment, the ministers said.
Under the deal, all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on a program that Western powers feared would pave the way for atomic weapons.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, the signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama’s second term, but he has been more circumspect since winning last week’s election.
The EU said it is committed to lifting nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions against Iran while engaging with banks and other economic operators “to promote growth in trade and investment.”
It said it “remains concerned” with the human rights situation, especially over the frequent use of the death penalty, and underlined the need for equal rights for women and minorities.
The EU, voicing concern about Iran’s missile program, urged Tehran to refrain from ballistic missile tests and urged Iran to “to use its influence on the Syrian regime” of President Bashar Assad to end attacks on civilians.
Trump has raised the prospect that the United States will pull out of the pact, calling it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated” during campaigning for the White House, although he has conceded it would be hard to destroy a deal enshrined in a United Nations resolution.
The deal curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for the easing of Western sanctions and came after years of standoff and growing fears in the West that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran denies that its nuclear program has military aims.
“The European Union reiterates its resolute commitment to the (Iran nuclear deal),” the bloc’s foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels.
“The European Union is committed to support the full and effective implementation ... by the lifting of nuclear related economic and financial sanctions and engaging with the private sector and economic operators, especially banks, to promote growth in trade and investment.”
Despite concerns over human rights in Iran, the bloc is seeking to open a diplomatic mission there and senior EU officials have visited for talks on issues from trade and investment to migration and humanitarian aid.
But Tehran complains restoring business ties with the West is moving too slowly, in large part because the United States has kept in place many of its sanctions restricting Iran’s access to the international banking and financial system.
Iran holds a presidential election in May and incumbent Hassan Rouhani, whom EU diplomats expect to stay on for a second term, is under pressure to show results from pursuing a tentative rapprochement with the West.
The EU says Iran is running a protectionist economic model with a strong role for the state and its banking sector needs deep reform after years of relative isolation.
“For Iran to fully benefit from the lifting of sanctions... it is important that it addresses obstacles related to economic and fiscal policy, business environment and rule of law,” the EU ministers’ statement said.
Iran’s high taxes on imported products as well as poor anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls are other obstacles to doing business there, EU diplomats say.
Iran is the largest economy outside of the World Trade Organization and Brussels says it wants to see it restart talks on meeting all the requirements to join.
Over the decade of sanctions, EU exports to Iran had fallen from 13 billion euros in 2005 to 6.5 billion euros last year. The bloc’s imports from Iran dropped from 11.5 billion euros in 2005 to 1.2 billion euros last year, EU data shows.
But the EU says trade has picked up, with January-June exports to Iran up by 13 percent at 3.565 billion euros from the same period last year. EU imports from Iran were up by 52 percent at 396 million euros, according to EU figures.
European diplomats fear that growing trade would be thwarted should Trump act on his criticism of the nuclear deal.

 

EU puts top Syrian officials under sanctions 


Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

Updated 23 September 2018
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Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

  • Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a ‘People’s Vote,’ or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU
  • Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as ‘for the birds’
LIVERPOOL: Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a deal with the EU have hit an impasse.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote,” or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU.
But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the European Union on Thursday over her plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit in Austria last week and chances of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal rising, Labour is under pressure to start setting the Brexit agenda.
Corbyn, a veteran euroskeptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said that while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in parliament.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”
Corbyn’s close ally, Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, told the BBC any such second referendum “shouldn’t be on: ‘do we want to go back into the European Union?’” as that had been answered in the 2016 referendum.
Britain is to exit the EU in March. After weeks of both sides making positive noises about prospects of clinching a divorce deal and their future trading relationship, the mood turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria, when the bloc’s leaders, one by one, came out to criticize May’s Chequers plans.
A tacit agreement to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her governing Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.
May says she will hold her nerve in the talks, pressing the EU to come up with an alternative proposal to her Chequers plan, named after the prime minister’s country residence where a deal was hashed out with her top ministers in July.
But the impasse with the EU has prompted some to predict an early election, with local media reporting that May’s team has begun contingency planning for a snap vote in November to save both Brexit and her job.
Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as “for the birds.” He said Britain would not “flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly.”
“We are going to be resolute about this,” Raab added.
While saying she will stick to her guns, May might have little chance but to change tack after a party conference where the deep divisions over Europe that have riven her Conservatives for decades will be in plain sight.
A senior pro-EU Conservative lawmaker, Nicky Morgan, said May would have to give ground on trade and customs arrangements to overcome the biggest obstacle to a withdrawal accord — the prevention of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
“I am not sure there is life left in Chequers,” Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee and a former cabinet minister under May’s predecessor, told Sky News.
“We want to see a deal. The question I think that has to be answered now by the government, by the EU leaders, is what room for movement is there, how do we move on from where we ended up last week?”