European Union officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to encompass U.S. President Donald Trump's May 8 decision to revive Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran's lifeblood oil sector and transactions with its central bank.
European companies that invested in Iran after the deal are already taking fright, with French energy giant Total warning it could pull out, and Danish shipping giant Maersk and German insurer Allianz also saying they plan to wind down activities there.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said the statute was being introduced to protect European firms.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described the meeting of leaders in Sofia as a show of unity among member states, and emphasised that the EU has a responsibility towards both the JCPoA and the European businesses that will be affected in the wake of new U.S. sanctions.
The "blocking statute" is a 1996 regulation originally created to circumvent Washington's trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits European Union companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws. The Commission itself will maintain its cooperation with Iran.
The commission said it hopes the statute will be in force before August 6 when the first batch of reimposed United States sanctions take effect.
A blocking statute is a law enacted in a local jurisdiction that attempts to hinder the application of a law made by a foreign jurisdiction and is widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Washington not to punish European firms that continue doing business with Iran.
And, in a bid to reassure the Iranian government of the EU's political commitment to saving the nuclear deal, Energy Commissioner Miguel Canete is visiting Tehran this weekend.
The other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran have pledged to stick to its terms and urged Tehran to do the same.
It is also encouraging members of the bloc to look into one-off bank transfers to the central bank of Iran to help authorities their "receive their oil-related revenues".
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