International consequences of the easing of sanctions against Iran

As of 20 January some of the European Union sanctions imposed against Iran in relation to its nuclear programme have been lifted for the next six months.

The measure is part of the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, a deal Iran signed up to in November 2013 in Geneva with the foreign ministers of the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany, with the backing of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, as a first step towards a definitive solution regarding the most worrying aspects of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Therefore, after an assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the Iranian regime was complying with their commitments set out in the Plan, the 28 members of the EU have backed the measure to suspend certain sanctions with immediate international effect.

Oil trade

Although the restriction on importing and buying crude oil and certain derivatives remains in place, the transportation of oil will now be allowed, at the same time as the prohibition is lifted on the provision of insurance or re-insurance relating to importing, acquiring or transporting crude oil. That said, according to European sources, this will only be allowed for ‘existing clients’ of Iranian crude – China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Taiwan.

Petrochemical industries

The sanction is lifted on the importation, purchase or transportation of petrochemical products originating in Iran, or that have been exported from there, as well as the prohibition on providing related financing, financial assistance, insurance or re-insurance.

Gold and precious metals

The agreement also re-establishes trade in gold and precious metals with the regime in Tehran and its public institutions, including the Central Bank and people or entities acting in its name. The restriction on trading in diamonds remains however.

Luis de San Simón, partner of San Simón & Duch also highlights, in transportation matters, the lifting of the sanction prohibiting the making available of vessels specifically designed for carrying, transporting and storing oil and petrochemical products.

Furthermore, the Joint Plan of Action also provides for an increase, by a factor of 10, of the limits on permitted bank transfers either to or from Iran.

The legal backing from the EU for this agreement is set out in European Council Regulation 42/2014. This guarantees uniform application for EU companies in all member states.