First VP blasts US lies about unsanctioned medical trade with Iran

FNA – Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri lashed out at Washington for its lies about sanctions on exports of drugs and medical equipment to Iran.

“We cannot use even one single dollar of our own assets in other countries to pay for medicine and foodstuff, because the US doesn’t allow it,” Jahangiri said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Tuesday.

“Nonetheless, we have our ways to bypass sanctions. Iran’s economy is great and cannot be isolated,” he stressed, describing the new Swiss-launched payment mechanism which allows drugs to be sent to Iran is a propaganda show.

“Iran’s imports of medicine and medical equipment in the first ten months of the current Iranian (starting March 21) was nearly $3 billion,” he said.

“Under these tough sanctions, Iranian officials, specially the private sector and economic activists, had carried out more than $70 billion worth of trade transactions with the world in the past ten months,” Jahangiri added.

In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Swiss-launched payment mechanism is no indication of Washington’s good will.

“Actually, the channel is short of implementation of the International Court of Justice’s decree which ordered the US not to prevent transfer of food and drugs to Iran,” Zarif told reporters in Tehran.

“Therefore, it is a very small step. The Swiss government has made efforts and we appreciate it but this is neither a sign of the US good will nor even the smallest step to implement its undertakings based on the ICJ’s temporary order, let alone the nuclear (undertakings),” he added.

Also, on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi had underlined that the new payment mechanism is not a humanitarian conduit as the Swiss companies are paid for their services by Iran.

“We do not recognize anything as a humanitarian channel. It does not have so much value. These drugs have been bought by the (Iranian) nation’s money and the Swiss company receives its money,” Mousavi told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He, meantime, called on Europe to launch its long-awaited Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) to trade with Iran, stressing Tehran’s preparedness to use the mechanism for transactions.

A channel to bring food and medicine to Iran started trial operations, the Swiss and US governments said on Thursday.

The channel called Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed, a government statement said.

Three shipments of cancer and transplant drugs have been sent to Iran through this channel and the transaction has been processed, US Special Representative Brian Hook told a press briefing.

US sanctions targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with the Islamic Republic – including humanitarian deals.

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s UN mission, said the opening of the channel was evidence of US “false claims” that medicine and food were exempt from the sanctions. “If they were…then why require this special channel?” he tweeted. He accused Washington of waging “economic terrorism against the Iranian people”.