Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
World News | By Sandy Lane

European Union chief on Trump: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

European Union chief on Trump:

Mr. Tusk's tweet, however, was one of the more notable, public denunciations of Mr. Trump's decision making by a European leader, as a series of moves on trade, Israel and other issues has increasingly put traditional allies at odds with the administration in Washington.

It was clear, Tusk suggested, that Washington could no longer be relied upon.

Trump's moving of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem this week has also upset many in Europe, though the European Union has failed to condemn the move squarely due to opposition from the Czech Republic and Hungary, which are strongly pro-Israel.

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Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have resolved to stick with the joint comprehensive plan of action with Iran, despite the threats of United States sanctions against European businesses. "That means permanent exemptions from USA tariffs on aluminium and steel". "This is the only real alternative".

Tusk added that Europe must protect the "transatlantic bond", but be prepared to act on its own, with "more political unity and determination". Tusk said he wanted Europe to "stick to our guns" and described Trump's justification of tariffs on the basis of national security as "absurd".

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU was willing to a so-called blocking statute that would make it illegal for European companies to comply with United States sanctions imposed on Iran and not recognize USA court decisions that enforce American sanctions. Russian media reported Wednesday that European countries could start purchasing Iranian oil in euros, not USA dollars. Meanwhile the European Union is still trying to win exemptions from tariffs on steel and aluminium exports.

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Tusk's remarks, made before he chaired a meeting in Bulgaria of the 28 leaders whose countries make up the world's biggest trading bloc, underscored the widening gulf in EU-US relations. "We need to bring reality back into this discussion".

Sanctions are already beginning to bite with French energy giant Total preparing to pull out of a billion dollar gas project in Iran. Referring to a major natural gas project in the Persian Gulf, Total said it would "not be in a position to continue the South Pars project and will have to unwind all related operations before 4 November 2018 unless Total is granted a specific project waiver by the United States authorities with the support of the French and European authorities".

They also agreed to "initiate work to protect European companies negatively affected by the U.S. decision", which involves Washington reimposing sanctions on the Iranian nuclear programme.

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Some European officials have also suggested the EU trigger a 1996 rule - known as the blocking regulation - which aims to limit the effect of global sanctions with which the EU does not agree. "We did discuss the possibility of applying our blocking statute".

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