The EU has approved one of the toughest sets of sanctions yet on Iran’s nuclear program. It includes banning the import of Iranian natural gas into union nations.
The sanctions also include a ban on financial transactions between European and Iranian banks, with some exceptions for those involving humanitarian aid, food and medicine purchases.
The decision was made during Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
“The [EU] Council has agreed additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors, as well as additional designations, notably of entities active in the oil and gas industry," a written statement issued by the European Union council said.
Further export restrictions were imposed on industrial software, graphite, and the metals which the EU believes could be used to develop ballistic missiles. The new restrictions also prohibit eurozone companies from providing shipbuilding technology and classification services to Iranian tankers and cargo vessels.
The sanctions aim to pressure Iran to cooperate in talks regarding its nuclear program. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the new sanctions were a “sign of our resolve in the European Union that we will step up the pressure.”
And that pressure is expected to continue until Iran agrees to negotiations.
The statement released by the EU council said that ministers remained “determined to increase, in close coordination with international partners, pressure on Iran.”
But the country's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamanei, said the “insidious policies” did nothing to upset political stability in the country, and that Iran was able to maintain a sense of "tranquility" despite growing economic pressure.
“The Iranian nation has managed to show its capabilities to the world despite threats, sanctions and the enemies’ hostilities relying on this stability and tranquility,” Khamanei was quoted by Fars News Agency as saying.
Also on Monday, leading European satellite provider Eutelsat SA took 19 Iranian television and radio broadcasters off the air, in a move to abide by earlier EU sanctions. The decision prompted accusations of censorship and threats of lawsuits from Iranian state television.
“We terminated the contracts because it was the order of the European Commission. We have to follow it,” Karen Badalov, area manager of Eutelsat SA, told Press TV.
This is the second round of EU sanctions imposed on Iran in the past few months.
In July, the European Union banned the import of Iranian crude oil, as well as financial services relating to the sale, purchase and transport of Iranian oil.
The sanctions marked a major policy change for the EU, which was traditionally a major importer of Iranian oil.
The decision followed a set of sanctions issued by the US last June, when Washington banned the world's banks from making oil-related transactions with Iranian financial institutions. Previous US sanctions have banned almost all trade with Iran, with certain exceptions for activity ‘intended to benefit the Iranian people.’
Several other countries – including Switzerland, Japan, Australia and Canada – have also imposed sanctions on Iran in recent years, in response to what they describe as Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
The US and its allies have long accused Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, though Tehran frequently vows its program is solely for civilian purposes.
The fresh sanctions come despite the Islamic Republic's recent statement that it is ready to show flexibility and resume negotiations on halting higher-grade uranium enrichment if its conditions are met.
Anti-sanctions campaigner Professor Abbas Edalat believes it is not the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran that is behind the mounting sanctions, rather the West’s determination to depose the Iranian government.
“So all of these [are] designed so that the negotiations fail because the US and EU, prodded by Israel, are interested in the regime change,” he told RT.
“They want the Iranian people to hurt – hurt so much so that there is mass discontent in the country and riots so they can pave their road for regime change in Iran, in the same way that they brought about the regime change in Iraq.”
Edalat argues than the sanctions are doing quite the opposite from what the West has planned. The sanctions are uniting the Iranian people against the West.
“Even some sectors of the middle class, who have been traditionally pro-West, are now quite hostile towards the United States and the EU and all the hawkish policies against Iran.”