The EU has banned natural gas imports from Iran in a new set of sanctions designed to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic to cooperate in talks on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, EU foreign ministers said in a statement on Monday.
"The Council [of the European Union] reiterates its serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear program and the urgent need for Iran to comply with all its international obligations, including full implementation by Iran of UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors' Resolutions,” the ministers' statement said.
“The restrictive measures agreed today are aimed at affecting Iran's nuclear program and revenues of the Iranian regime used to fund the program and are not aimed at the Iranian people,” the EU ministers said.
The existing sanctions against Iran ban investment in the Iranian gas industry but do not relate to natural gas imports to EU countries from the Islamic Republic, although the volumes of these supplies are insignificant.
Additional restrictive measures apply to the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors, as well as entities active in the oil and gas industry.
“In particular, the Council has agreed to prohibit all transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless authorized in advance under strict conditions with exemptions for humanitarian needs,” the ministers said.
The EU has also imposed further export restrictions, notably for graphite, metals, and software for industrial processes, as well as measures relating to the shipbuilding industry.
The EU’s previous economic sanctions, banning Iranian oil exports, have caused an almost 40-percent devaluation of the Iranian rial in recent weeks, triggering street protests by local small merchants, the bazaari, normally the core constituency of the ruling Islamic regime.
The West, led by the United States, suspects Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program, but the Islamic Republic says it needs nuclear power solely for electricity generation.