Ending Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be Major Security Threat, EU Says

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union warned that ending the Iran nuclear deal would be a “major threat” to security in the Middle East as the bloc prepared measures to protect its companies if the Trump administration re-imposes sanctions following the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement.

“We don’t want to see this agreement destroyed because it is important for maintaining peace in the region and also for peace in the whole world,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “Ending this agreement would be a major threat to security in this region.”

The 28-nation EU is scrambling to contain the fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 accord on Iran’s nuclear activities. The Brussels-based commission, the EU executive, on Wednesday discussed possible ways to deal with a U.S. exit from the deal, including a so-called blocking statute, which could shield European companies doing business with Iran. EU leaders will continue the discussion at a dinner in Bulgaria.

“We would like this evening to be able to agree on a joint approach, based on consensus among us all, with regard to our relations with the United States and its relations with Iran,” said Juncker, who will attend the meeting in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

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“We have the means and resources and we will use them. But let’s not kid ourselves -- they are only limited resources,” Juncker said. “But we will make full use of all the means that are available to us.”

The commission “discussed concrete, practical solutions to make sure the European Union can continue to live up to its commitments under the deal and protect our economic operations,” European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters earlier in Brussels. “We did discuss the possibility of applying our blocking statute. We are ready to do so if needed,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Tuesday evening in Brussels. After the meeting, Mogherini said that technical experts were commissioned to identify ways to maintain oil shipments, avert transport disruptions, keep open banking channels and protect European companies doing business with Iran.

“We are exploring options to protect the economic operators from the extra-territorial effects of re-imposed sanctions,” Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for Mogherini, told reporters earlier on Tuesday. “We will work with all the partners to address possible negative impacts on economic operators of any re-imposition of sanctions by the U.S.”

EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete is due to visit Tehran on May 19-20 to discuss energy cooperation between Iran and the EU, Kocijancic said.

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