TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A channel aimed at easing exports of food and medicine to Iran following Europe’s failure to make INSTEX operational could be “up and running within months”, senior Swiss and US officials told Reuters.
Pascale Baeriswyl, Swiss state secretary for foreign affairs, and US Ambassador Edward McMullen spoke in separate interviews in the Swiss capital late on Tuesday, days after a rare Swiss-brokered prisoner swap by Iran and the United States.
“Our role is really to be able to provide food and health goods to the Iranian people. And therefore we are working hard on establishing that humanitarian channel,” Baeriswyl said.
Asked if the channel could be operational in the first half of 2020, she said, “I hope so, but it is very difficult to predict since it is not entirely in our hands.”
McMullen — whose country’s sanctions on Iran have deterred foreign banks from doing any business, including humanitarian deals, with Tehran- said he is “hopeful” the Swiss channel would be operational soon.
“Fortunately, I think we are at that point now where we are working with Switzerland on the final details. And hopefully we’ll be seeing some kind of finality to that conversation in the near future,” he said.
The proposed Swiss channel may even outpace the long-awaited Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a long overdue mechanism the E3 (France, Britain, and Germany) are intending to launch to facilitate trade with Tehran despite the US sanctions.
“If this (Swiss) model works it would be great if others could follow… It’s not a competing instrument, just a slightly different approach,” said the Swiss state secretary for foreign affairs.
Late last month, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden said they would become new shareholders in INSTEX.
The launching of INSTEX is a small part of Europe’s commitment to compensate for the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was supposed to end anti-Iran sanctions in return for certain curbs in the country’s peaceful nuclear program.