The European Union is poised to ban imports of Iranian gas as part of a set of new measures to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, diplomats said.
Diplomats from EU member states have started preparing a package of sanctions against Iran with a goal of formally adopting them at a meeting of foreign ministers on Oct. 15 in Luxembourg.
They reached a preliminary deal this week to ban gas imports, the first measure to win approval in the package, which also consists of various finance and energy-related proposals, three EU diplomats told Reuters.
“There is agreement on gas,” one of the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The big states back it, Germany, Britain, France,” another one said.
The US, since 1995, has banned US firms from investing in Iranian oil and gas and from trading with Iran. Last December it adopted steps that prompted buyers in Japan, South Korea and India to cut Iranian oil purchases and in July it announced sanctions against foreign banks helping Tehran sell oil.
The European Union has been much slower to target Iranian energy. It imposed an embargo on Iranian oil this year, after banning the creation of joint ventures with enterprises in Iran engaged in the oil and natural gas industries in 2010.
Existing sanctions cover investment in Iranian gas, but do not specifically outlaw imports, which are insignificant in terms of volume but have a symbolic importance.
The EU sources said any Iranian gas that reaches Europe comes via Turkey, which blends it with Azeri gas and ships it on.
Greece and Bulgaria are the two EU nations in prime position to receive gas via Turkey for now and one diplomat told Reuters details still had to be decided on how they might be affected.
“The modalities are still to be worked out,” he said.
Analysts and industry sources said it would be virtually impossible to identify the quantities involved.