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Title News : European trade channel with Iran facilitates first deal
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European powers have agreed a deal to export medical goods to Iran, in the first transaction under a new financial channel set up to shield lines of trade with Tehran from US sanctions. Germany, France and the UK hope the sale of about €500,000 worth of medical equipment through the mechanism known as Instex will open the way for further humanitarian assistance, including aid for the coronavirus pandemic that has hit Iran hard. The Instex trade channel was conceived more than a year ago to help European countries save a landmark international nuclear deal with Tehran after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018. But the European states have struggled for more than 12 months to launch the mechanism in the face of technical challenges and fierce opposition from Washington. The deal for medical goods will be an important first test. “The transaction comes at critical time, providing hope that humanitarian trade with Iran can increase during the Covid-19 battle, with the potential to save the lives of ordinary Iranians,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank. “The US should take similar measures.” In a sign of the sensitivity of the Instex programme, given US opposition, details of the first transaction, including the identity of the company and the specific goods involved, were not disclosed. The transaction was arranged before the virus outbreak but the three European countries, known as the E3, hope they will be able to use the mechanism to provide Iran with future assistance relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, say European diplomats.  So far, 2,898 people have died from coronavirus in Iran and the government of President Hassan Rouhani has appealed for international help, including $5bn in loans from the IMF.  Iranian officials and non-government organisations say the US sanctions and the consequent collapse in oil revenues have weakened the country’s economy and left it short of funds to import the medical supplies needed to combat the pandemic. Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, said last week that the bloc would send €20m of humanitarian aid to Iran to help fight the outbreak.

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