German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the EU is banning the import of Iranian natural gas into union nations. The announcement came as EU governments agreed to one of the toughest sets of sanctions yet on Iran’s nuclear program.
The sanctions also include a ban on financial transactions between European and Iranian banks, with some exceptions for those involving humanitarian aid, food, and medicine purchases.
The decision was made during Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
“The [EU] Council has agreed additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors, as well as additional designations, notably of entities active in the oil and gas industry,” a written statement issued by the European Union council said.
Further export restrictions were imposed on industrial software, graphite, and the metals which the EU believes could be used to develop ballistic missiles. The new restrictions also prohibit eurozone companies from providing shipbuilding technology and classification services to Iranian tankers and cargo vessels.
The sanctions aim to pressure Iran to cooperate in talks regarding its nuclear program. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the new sanctions were a “sign of our resolve in the European Union that we will step up the pressure.”
Also on Monday, leading European satellite provider Eutelsat SA took 19 Iranian television and radio broadcasters off the air, in a move to abide by earlier EU sanctions. The decision prompted accusations of censorship and threats of lawsuits from Iranian state television.
“We terminated the contracts because it was the order of the European Commission. We have to follow it,” Karen Badalov, area manager of Eutelsat SA, told Press TV.
This is the second round of EU sanctions imposed on Iran in the past few months.
In July, the European Union banned the import of Iranian crude oil, as well as financial services relating to the sale, purchase and transport of Iranian oil.
The sanctions marked a major policy change for the EU, which was traditionally a major importer of Iranian oil.
The decision followed a set of sanctions issued by the US last June, when Washington banned the world’s banks from making oil-related transactions with Iranian financial institutions. Previous US sanctions have banned almost all trade with Iran, with certain exceptions for activity ‘intended to benefit the Iranian people.’
Several other countries – including Switzerland, Japan, Australia and Canada – have also imposed sanctions on Iran in recent years, in response to what they describe as Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
The US and its allies have long accused Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, though Tehran frequently vows its program is solely for civilian purposes.