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EU approves $20.6M aid package for Iran to counter US sanctions

The European Union announced plans on Thursday to deliver an 18 million euro aid package to Iran, in order to ease the impact of U.S. sanctions on the country. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The European Union approved an 18 million euro ($20.6 million) aid package for Iran on Thursday with the intent of easing the impact of U.S. sanctions and holding together the EU nuclear deal with Tehran.

What's that about?

Since President Donald Trump backed out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, the EU has been scrambling to keep the accord in place. Iran has threatened to scrap the agreement entirely unless the EU can provide relief from the recently re-imposed U.S. sanctions against the country.

European leaders have condemned Trump's abandonment of the nuclear deal, as well as the sanctions against Iran, but the president warned in a tweet on Aug. 7 that "anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States."

EU Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a statement after announcing the aid deal.

"This new package will widen economic and sectoral relations in areas that are of direct benefit to our citizens," Mogherini said.

Iran will receive support for both its public and private sectors, with $9.26 million dedicated to environmental efforts, $2.3 million to ease the impact of harmful drug use in the country, and another $9.26 million will be split between small- and mid-sized Iranian businesses and the country's Trade Promotion Organization.

Reuters reported that the aid is part of a broader 50 million euro package the EU has set aside for Iran in its  budget.

What did the German official say?

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas bashed the Trump administration in the German publication Handelsblatt, defending European business relationships with Iran while pressing for European leaders to stay the course on the Iran nuclear deal.

Mass wrote that Germany "will not allow [the U.S.] to go over our heads, and at our expense."

"It is therefore essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels independent of the U.S., a European monetary fund and an independent SWIFT [payments] system," Mass said.

"The devil is in thousands of details. But every day that the Iran [nuclear] agreement lasts, is better than the potentially explosive crisis that threatens the Middle East otherwise."

Julie Lenarz of The Israel Project had strong words regarding European support of Iran. She told Fox News, "Europe, and Germany, in particular, are throwing the mullah regime ... a much needed lifeline by boycotting the sanctions. It make them directly complicit in the crimes committed by Iran."

Anything else?

Two European airlines announced Thursday that they would be suspending service to Iran beginning in September.

A British Airways spokesman said the company's flight from London to Tehran would be stopped "as the operation is currently not commercially viable."

A statement from Air France explained, "As the number of business customers flying to Iran has fallen, the connection is not profitable any more."

German airline Lufthansa will continue to offer flights to Iran at least for the near future.

"We are closely monitoring the developments," the airline said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "For the time being, Lufthansa will continue to fly to Tehran as scheduled and no changes are envisaged."

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