The European Union has imposed on Iran the strictest sanctions it has ever drawn up for any country.
Foreign ministers hope the tougher measures will help force Iran to negotiate over its controversial nuclear programme.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said:
“Iran has the natural right to use nuclear power for civilian purposes, but it has the natural obligation to full transparency, because the nuclear armament of Iran is not acceptable. That Europe stands together and speaks with one voice will have more of an effect than just more Iranian rhetoric.”
Europe’s restrictions go beyond new UN sanctions imposed last month and mirror those already agreed by the US and Australia.
Some EU countries, like Sweden, are sceptical that sanctions will make Tehran budge. But some analysts are optimistic. Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says:
“Iran has been demonstrating many times its ability to forestall sanctions by seeming to be willing to negotiate and then not really getting anywhere. Well this time they actually have sanctions imposed so I think it gives Iran a greater reason to find a solution at the negotiating table.”
The EU’s sanctions target Iran’s ability to refine oil and produce natural gas. They also put greater pressure on Iran’s banks and insurance companies and restrict further what it can import.
Diplomats say talks on a possible energy swap deal that had been dead in the water for months could resume as early as September.