“We want Instex to enter into force in a few days and I hope that we will be able to operate in a few days. I hope the first transaction will be completed in a few days,” Le Maire said at a press conference in Poland on Thursday.
Initiated by France, Britain and Germany mainly to circumvent unilateral US sanctions on the Islamic Republic, the channel could be funded by future sales of Iran’s oil so that trade between Tehran and Europe can continue.
Under Instex, which is exclusive to European businesses, exports to Iran should be compensated by imports from the country. A mirror company in Iran would carry out the same transactions for Iranian companies exporting to and importing from Europe.
“The first transaction will be a limited one but this is a starting point and we expect Instex to be an efficient tool,” Le Maire said.
Instex was launched after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May last year.
The trade channel, however, has so far failed to revive bilateral trade. Last Friday, the three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal - France, Germany and the UK - confirmed that Instex was finally operational, but Iran was not impressed.
The Europeans say the scope of Instex is initially confined to humanitarian goods such as medicine, medical devices and food.
On Tuesday, Iran's Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said the mechanism won’t be useful if it doesn’t allow for oil sales.
“Without oil deal, it’s very clear, Instex will not work,” he told Bloomberg in Vienna where he was to attend an OPEC meeting.
Iranian officials have said the amount of financial transfers made through Instex is also important to Tehran. They have stated that Iran used to sell about 2.8 million barrels per day of oil and receive the revenues before the US pullout.
After the Europeans announced the official operation of Instex recently, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said it was a step forward, but not enough and was not meeting Tehran's expectations.
"For Instex to be useful for Iran, the Europeans need to buy oil or consider credit lines for this mechanism; otherwise Instex is not like they or us expect," Araqchi said after a "last chance" meeting in Vienna.