Mon | May 20, 2019

Pence urges Europe to quit Iran deal, stop busting sanctions

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:07 AM
From left: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attend a session yesterday at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland.

WARSAW (AP):

The Trump administration in the United States lashed out at some of America’s closest traditional allies yesterday, accusing Britain, France and Germany of trying to bust US sanctions against Iran and calling on European nations to join the United States in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.

In an unusually blunt speech to a Middle East conference in Poland, US Vice President Mike Pence slammed the three countries, and the European Union (EU) as a whole, for remaining parties to the landmark 2015 agreement after President Donald Trump withdrew from it last year and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.

The harsh criticism threatened to further chill US-European ties that are already badly strained over numerous issues, including the Iran focus of the Warsaw conference co-hosted by the US and Poland.

France and Germany had declined to send their top diplomats to the ministerial-level meeting. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also stayed away due to concerns that it would become an anti-Iran vehicle. Britain, France and Germany, along with the rest of the EU, continue to support the nuclear deal as the best way to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons.

Pence was especially critical of Britain, France and Germany for unveiling a new financial mechanism last month that US officials believe is intended to keep the nuclear deal alive by evading American sanctions. Pence praised other nations for complying with US sanctions by reducing Iranian oil imports, but said the Europeans fell short.

“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative,” Pence said. “In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”

He said the mechanism, a barter-type payment system that is designed to allow businesses to skirt direction financial transactions with Iran, is “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous regime.

“It’s an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” the vice president said.

Pence then called for Europe to abandon the nuclear agreement altogether, making explicit a demand that Trump administration officials had previously only hinted at.