French energy giant Total has officially quit its multi-billion-dollar gas project in Iran, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Monday, following the reimposition of the first phase of US sanctions.
“Total has officially left the agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars (gas field). It has been more than two months that it announced that it would leave the contract,” he told the ICANA news agency, which is linked to the oil ministry.
The pullout came as Iran on Monday said Europe should accelerate its efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the other powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Efforts by the remaining signatories – EU members Britain, France and Germany plus China and Russia – to avoid its collapse are struggling as Washington has said any firms dealing with Teheran will be barred from doing business in the United States.
“Europeans and other signatories of the deal have been trying to save the deal … but the process has been slow. It should be accelerated,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said. “Iran relies mainly on its own capabilities to overcome America’s new sanctions,” he told a news conference broadcast on state TV.
European states have been scrambling to ensure Iran gets enough economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal, which US President Donald Trump has called “deeply flawed”.
Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran in August, targeting its trade in gold and other precious metals, purchases of US dollars and its car industry.
The European powers, China and Russia say they will do more to encourage their businesses to remain engaged with Iran. But the threat of US sanctions has prompted many major companies to pull out of Iran.
Next phase of US sanctions set for November
Carmakers PSA, Renault and Daimler are also among those to suspend or drop plans to invest in Iran along with Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom.
Working to maintain financial channels with Tehran and facilitate Iran’s oil exports, the European Union has taken steps to counter the renewed US sanctions, including forbidding EU citizens from complying with them or related court rulings.
Washington has said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept Trump’s offer to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal. Iranian officials have rejected the offer.
The US will impose tougher sanctions on Iran in November, which will target Iran’s oil sale and banking sector.
Iran’s rial currency has lost about half of its value since April because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of sanctions.
Under the 2015 deal, most international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear programme.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)