Iran hopes to have its part of a new payments vehicle – devised to allow it to trade with European Union companies despite American sanctions – ready within the next two weeks, a senior official said Wednesday.
“We hope it will be before the end of the Iranian calendar year,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Vienna, referring to March 20.
He said that Iran now had a “clearer picture” of how the new vehicle, known as INSTEX – an acronym for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges – would work and that its managing director would visit Tehran for discussions “very soon.”
However, he added that only when the mechanism becomes fully operational would the Islamic republic be able to determine whether it “can work properly and can produce results, [and] can do payments between Iran and European countries.”
Araghchi was in the Austrian capital for a “joint commission” with representatives from China, Russia, Britain, Germany and France – all signatories of the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
INSTEX was launched at the end of January by Britain, France and Germany.
It is seen as key to EU efforts to preserve the agreement made in 2015 between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The US was also a signatory but last May President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and in November imposed sweeping new sanctions on Iran.
Araghchi said there was “very strong support” for the deal from all participants at the meeting.
He stressed that Iran expects INSTEX to work “for all goods and commodities, not only humanitarian goods,” but that it could start with humanitarian goods “in order to set the patterns for doing business with Iran.”
He added, “Once the patterns are set, then other goods, including sanctioned goods – and oil of course – would be added to this mechanism. It is late but still a move in the right direction.”
The EU representative, who chairs the joint commission, said in a statement after the meeting that the EU would continue to support the work to make INSTEX operational “as soon as possible in close coordination with an Iranian corresponding entity which is being established.”
Russia’s ambassador to Vienna’s UN organizations, Mikhail Ulyanov, who was also at the meeting, told AFP the remaining signatories to the deal are “united in the need to save the JCPOA.”
He added, “There are some problems, particularly in the economic field, but we are aimed at overcoming them as soon as possible.”
In February, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog said Iran was complying with the terms of the JCPOA, under which Tehran dramatically scaled back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington has urged European signatories to the JCPOA to follow Trump’s example and withdraw, but this has been rejected by the Europeans.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse