US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Germany to talk sanctions as tensions rise between US, Iran
- Pompeo says the US will not stand in the way of a system called INSTEX to shield companies from American sanctions if they deal with Iran
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that Washington would not stand in the way of a system Europeans are developing to shield companies from American sanctions if they deal with Iran, so long as the focus is providing humanitarian and other permitted goods.
Pompeo, making his first visit to Germany as secretary of state, said the US does not take issue with the development of the system known as INSTEX, so long as it deals with the trade of goods not subject to sanctions as the Europeans contend it will.
“We’ve been pretty clear about trade with Iran – there are items that are sanctioned and there are items that are not,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at a government villa on the outside of Berlin.
“When we think about INSTEX, if it’s aimed at facilitating the movement of goods that are authorised to move, it’s unproblematic.”
Since pulling unilaterally out of the landmark 2015 deal with Iran that offered economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, the US has been at odds with the other nations involved that have been trying to keep the deal alive – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China.
As the US has increased sanctions and companies have been pulling business out of Iran, the Europeans have been developing INSTEX, a complicated barter-type system to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and so evade possible US sanctions.
The system is not yet up and running, but they hope to have it functioning by this summer.
Maas emphasised that even though the US was no longer party to the Iran agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, its goal was the same.
“We both agree that Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Maas said. “It’s no secret that we differ on how to achieve that.”
In other comments, Pompeo praised Germany for granting asylum to Chinese dissidents and reiterated Washington’s position that China’s Huawei should be excluded from helping develop 5G networks in Germany and elsewhere as a security risk.
Maas reiterated that Germany was not prepared to exclude any company from bidding, but that any firm that could not meet security standards would be rejected.
The US has also been critical of Germany going ahead with a joint project with Russia to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would take Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic, arguing it is a security issue because it would increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
Pompeo refused to comment, however, on whether the US was prepared to sanction German companies involved in the project.
“We never discuss sanctions before we roll them out,” he said.
Following the meeting with Maas, Pompeo headed into the capital for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then he will continue to Switzerland, which has long represented Washington’s interests in Tehran and has in the past been an intermediary between the two.