BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is on the verge of launching an alternative channel to send money to Iran that would sidestep U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic, Germany's foreign minister said Monday.
The "special purpose vehicle," or SPV, is part of EU efforts to keep alive an international agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. The future of the U.N. Security Council underwritten pact was thrown into doubt when President Donald Trump pulled out last year slamming it as a "horrible, one-sided deal."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels that "as far as the special purpose vehicle is concerned: it will be registered, it has not yet been registered, but I would say that the implementation of our plan is imminent."
Maas said the EU's aim is to ensure that "business not sanctioned by the U.S. can be upheld, and there is a suitable instrument for international payments." He said that Germany has been working notably with Britain and France but also other EU partners in recent months to set it up, without providing details.
EU member country envoys discussed Iran Monday, but didn't announce the SPV's completion. It is likely to be discussed when EU foreign ministers meet over two days in Romania from Thursday.
Senior EU officials have been saying for weeks that the financing mechanism would be up and running soon, but they have hesitated to provide details amid European concern that Trump would target the country where it is based and any others taking part.
The White House has been warning the Europeans that they could face stiff fines and penalties should they try to circumvent the sanctions.
Still, the EU insists that the nuclear deal is vital to regional and global security. The bloc has already introduced measures to stop European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions without authorization from Brussels.
The measures block the effect of any U.S. court action in Europe and allow European firms to recover damages arising from the sanctions from anyone who causes them.
"We don't want Iran to leave this agreement and start the enrichment of uranium again," Maas said.
Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.