Iranian FM Tours East Asia to Ease US Sanctions

Sunday, 25 August, 2019 - 11:15
London- Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began a tour in East Asia as part of a diplomatic push to ease some of US sanctions imposed on his country.

Zarif will visit China, Japan, and Malaysia right after his tour of Western European nations, spokesman Abbas Mousavi said late Friday on the ministry's Telegram channel.

“Bilateral relations and, most importantly, regional and international issues are some of the topics our foreign minister will discuss with the aforementioned countries' officials during the trip,” said Mousavi.

Washington issued sanctions on Zarif late last month in a bid to target any assets he has in the US and limit his ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat. However, Zarif hailed his visit to France on Friday following trips to Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

In a post on Twitter, the FM said that despite US efforts to destroy diplomacy, he met French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and had interviews with media in Paris, including Agence-France Presse (AFP).

Tensions escalated between Iran and the United States since last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 deal under which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

A year after the US pullout, Iran began reducing its commitments by surpassing a uranium enrichment cap and exceeding a limit on its reserves.

The situation has threatened to spiral out of control, with ships attacked in the Gulf, a US drone downed and oil tankers seized.

During his visit to France, Zarif told AFP in an interview that he was pleased with the efforts of Macron to defuse the crisis.

“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” noted Zarif.

Iran is trying to pressure the Europeans into taking measures that could enable it to circumnavigate the US sanctions which are damaging its economy and affecting Iranians.

The Europeans are trying to persuade Washington to ease sanctions on Iranian oil to get Tehran to respect the deal again.

France, Germany ad Britain have introduced a mechanism known as INSTEX to facilitate continued trade with Iran despite US sanctions, but Iran has so far made little gains.

For his part, Zarif briefed the French president on the Iranian perception of French ideas, before Macron made another attempt to mediate between Tehran and Washington during his meeting with US President Trump at the G7 summit in Biarritz.

The French offer includes Tehran's full commitment to the terms of the agreement while accepting new negotiations on its ballistic missile program and regional policy.

Speaking at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Zarif announced his country was prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015.

Notably, the Iranian FM adopted a policy of “constructive ambiguity”, by saying Iran is ready to work on the French proposals, in the sense that it sees in them some acceptable positive elements and others unacceptable or some that need clarification.

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