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Eurasian trade bloc adds Iran on interim basis

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May 17 (UPI) — Iran on Thursday signed an interim free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, two days days after the United States imposed new sanctions and warned companies against trading with Tehran.

EEU members Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan added Iran to their trade bloc, which has existing agreements with Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Moldova.

Iran could become the sixth EEU member, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said.

Thursday’s three-year provisional agreement, which abolishes customs duties, will function as a test to determine if long-term Iranian membership is viable.

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation,” EEU spokesman Tigran Sargsyan said.

Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President Vladimir Padalko told Russian government-owned TASS Thursday the resumption of U.S. sanctions on Iran will not push away entrepreneurs or disturb interaction with the agreement.

“This is an extra signal to everyone that the Iranian market awaits our businessmen and we will proactively work there,” Padalko said.

The Trump administration announced new sanctions Tuesday on leaders at Iran’s central bank and an Iraqi bank chairman. They are accused of illegally funneling millions of dollars to Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

The sanctions follow President Donald Trump‘s pledge to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and impose the “strongest sanctions” possible on Tehran.

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