France, Britain and Germany, along with the European Union, on Wednesday sent a joint formal request to Washington to exempt their companies from punitive measures resulting from the new US sanctions on Iran.
«As allies, we expect the United States to refrain from taking measures that are detrimental to Europe's security interests», the letter to US Treasury and State Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mike Pompio said.
French Economy Minister Bruno Lemaire said the three countries and the European Union were asking the United States «to exempt European companies doing legal business in Iran from all US sanctions outside the border».
«These companies must be able to continue their activities», he wrote on Twitter.
The demand comes as European leaders seek to salvage an agreement reached after tough negotiations between Iran and the major powers in 2015, under which Tehran agreed not to develop its nuclear capabilities in return for easing economic sanctions.
US President Donald Trump announced Washington's withdrawal from the deal last month, which means imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic and punitive measures on its business partners.
Analysts say European companies that have rushed to invest in Iran after lifting sanctions over the past three years are the biggest losers.
Several major companies, including France's Total and Denmark's Maersk, said they would not be able to stay in Iran with sanctions fully reinstated in the next six months unless they received clear exceptions from Washington.
French car maker PSA said on Monday it would withdraw from Iran to avoid the risk of punitive fines.
The conflict and economic warfare between the United States and European Union countries comes with Canada, Britain and Mexico, where the Group of Seven (G7) meetings, most of which are subject to economic conflict, are currently taking place.