Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi with Iranian State outlet IRNA, Tehran, November 21, 2018

Iran says it will give the European Union “more time” for arrangements to bypass US sanctions on Tehran, but has warned that it “cannot wait forever”.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Friday, after a series of talks with European officials in Tehran and in Brussels, Belgium,

We’ve so far witnessed that the European countries have the political will [to maintain business relations with Iran], and have not seen any sign that proves otherwise.

We are currently aware of the efforts being made [by Europe], and they regularly brief us on these efforts; therefore, we believe we should give them more time so that Europeans would be able to operationalize these solutions.

Araqchi expressed sympathy with the position of the EU and its members amid comprehensive US sanctions, imposed on 5 November. The measures threaten fines, up to billions of dollars, on any company which continues business with the Islamic Republic.

“We see that the US is exerting enormous pressures, and there are very serious technical and legal barriers to the establishment of the mechanism, which Europeans are trying to remove,” the Minister said.

But he continued, “The Europeans have so far failed to introduce operational solutions required for securing Iran’s benefits under the deal, and we are not going to wait forever. We’ll take appropriate decisions in due time.”

The EU and Iran have agreed in principle on a Special Purpose Vehicle, which allows trade in goods and commodities such as oil and gas without use of the US dollar.

However, while the Europeans have offered guarantees to small- and medium-sized enterprises, they have been unable to assure the resources to cover large companies against the prospect of large US fines. Even before November 5, many of Europe’s biggest companies — from the energy giant Total to the world’s largest shipper Maersk — have suspended links with Iran.

Speaking about a report in the Wall Street Journal that Germany and France are going to host the SPV, Araqchi said he cannot confirm it because of the “sensitivity of the issue”.

However, he again cautioned, “The Americans are seeking to block all the paths, and have already started exerting pressure on the countries that try to establish the payment mechanism.”

Luxembourg refused to host the SPV after warnings that its place as an international financial center could be damaged. Austria has also declined.