The European Union on Monday formally approved an embargo on Iranian oil to start on July 1, due to the lack of progress in talks on Tehran’s contested nuclear drive.
The move dismissed calls from Greece for possible exemptions to ease its economic problems.
“Following a review of the measures the council confirmed that they would remain as approved in January,” the statement from EU foreign ministers on the proposed embargo said.
In late January the EU imposed an oil embargo on Iran, with foreign ministers meeting in Brussels ruling that no further oil contracts could be struck between member states and the Islamic republic, though existing delivery deals would be allowed to run until July.
“There is no change in terms of how we’re going forward on July 1,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on the sidelines of the meeting. “The sanctions that have been agreed will be implemented.”
Confirmation that the embargo will be enforced comes days after talks in Moscow between Iran and world powers on its nuclear program failed to reach a breakthrough.
Negotiators from permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, last week agreed with their Iranian counterparts to stage a new expert-level meeting in Istanbul on July 3.
The West suspects Iran of seeking to make nuclear weapons under the guise of an energy program and wants it to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, which brings it dangerously close to levels needed to make a nuclear bomb.
International pressure has already inflicted damage to the Iranian economy. The International Energy Agency says its crude exports have fallen by some 40 percent this year.
Europe was a major client for Iranian oil but under sanctions agreed in January EU governments have stopped signing new contracts for Iranian crude. Available data show deliveries virtually dried up in May and June.
Greece has lobbied other EU governments to allow purchases under previously signed deals after July 1, or to provide Athens with credit guarantees that would help it to buy crude elsewhere. These requests have been rejected, diplomats said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday it was time to ramp up sanctions against Iran to try to curb its nuclear programme after discussing the matter with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.