Iranian Foreign Minister M. Zarif has just concluded his visits to four countries including Finland, Sweden, Norway and France to promote diplomatic efforts to reduce the negative impact of US sanctions. Iran wanted to seek European support to remove the current economic difficulties, as well as reduce pressure from the US, amid France's plan to ease escalating tensions in the Gulf.
Relations between the US and Iran were pushed to a new level of tension after Washington announced that it wanted to arrest Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, which was recently released by the authority of the British territory of Gibraltar. Newly released US court documents show the US issued a warrant for the seizure of the oil tanker Grace 1, the more than two million barrels of oil it carries and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Washington also announced that it would implement strong sanctions to prevent private transportation from supporting Adrian Darya or allowing the Iranian tanker to dock. Under pressure from the US, Greece officials announced that they would not allow Adrian Darya to dock at one of the country’s ports, forcing the vessel to switch destination and head to Turkey.
At this point, diplomatic efforts with Europe were promoted by Iran. During the European visit, Iranian Foreign Minister M. Zarif exchanged with French President E. Macron about the nuclear agreement called the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Tehran signed with P5+1 in 2015. Iran wanted to urge France, the country that plays an important role in the European Union (EU), to influence the EU to implement its commitments under the nuclear agreement to protect the interests of Tehran. In order to salvage the situation, French
President E. Macron offered to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide "a compensation mechanism to enable the Iranian people to live better” in return for full compliance with the pact, which the US quit last year.
A series of current issues aiming at reducing the Iranian economy’s hardship and easing tensions in the Gulf have been mentioned by the Iranian diplomatic leader in his meeting with his Finnish counterpart. Finland is the current rotating president of the EU Council. Iran underscored the importance of fully operating the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) - a trade mechanism established by the EU to save the nuclear deal with Tehran. Meanwhile, Helsinki is also said to be able to act as an intermediary to enable the dialogue between the US and Iran to hopefully continue.
While diplomatic efforts are being promoted, Iran continued to show a tough attitude, saying it will not negotiate a new nuclear deal with the US. Tehran also confirmed its impressive ability to ensure the regional security as it owns the longest coastline in the Gulf. Iran warned that any attempt at seizing the Iranian oil tanker, would have "grave consequences” and it is considered a threat against the maritime security in international waters. Iranian President H. Rouhani also said if Iran’s oil exports are cut to zero, international waterways will not have the same security as before. It’s worth noting, Iran has constantly improved its defensive strength. Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) H. Salame recently announced that Iran has successfully test-fired a "new missile”. Iran has also launched the Bavar-373 air defence system which the country's media described as a competitor to Russia's S-300 air defence missile system.
Immediately after the end of the European visit, the Iranian Foreign Minister began a visit to some East Asian countries. The Iranian president insisted that the country tried to maintain friendly relations with many countries in both "the East and the West”, despite Washington’s pressure to isolate Tehran. With diplomatic efforts, Iran wishes to improve the economic situation as well as to show its willingness to succumb to strong pressure from the US. A plan to ease tensions in the Gulf is being promoted by France and European countries. This is a positive signal to partly ease the rising heat from the current tension in the US-Iran relations.
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