Iran’s oil ministry says Total, the French energy giant, will on Monday sign a multi-billion-dollar contract to develop an Iranian offshore gas field in the largest foreign deal since sanctions were eased last year.
Total signed a preliminary deal with Iran over the South Pars gas field in November, taking a 50.1 percent stake in the $4.8bn project. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will own 30 percent and Iran’s Petropars 19.9 percent.
“The international agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars will be signed on Monday in the presence of the oil ministry and managers of Total, the Chinese company CNPC and Iranian company Petropars,” a ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency on Sunday.
The first stage of the new 20-year project at South Pars will cost around $2bn and consist of 30 wells and two well-head platforms connected to existing onshore treatment facilities.
The site will eventually pump 50.9 million cubic metres (1.8bn cubic feet) of gas per day into Iran’s national grid.
Total will put in an initial $1bn for the first stage of the project.
The French company was initially due to sign the contract in early 2017, but CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in February that it would wait to see whether the US administration of President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Trump threatened during his campaign last year to tear up the landmark accord between Iran and six world powers that came into force in January 2016 and eased sanctions in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear programme.
His administration has taken a tough line on Iran and imposed fresh sanctions related to its ballistic missile programme and military activities in the region.
But the White House has kept the nuclear deal alive, continuing to waive the relevant sanctions every few months as required under the agreement.
It is in the middle of a 90-day review on whether to stick with the nuclear deal, although any move to abandon it will be strongly opposed by the other signatories: Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
Return to Iran
Monday’s signing will mark Total’s return to Iran, which has the second-largest gas reserves and fourth-largest oil reserves in the world.
The French firm led the development of phases two and three of South Pars in the 1990s but effectively left Iran in 2012 when France joined European Union partners in imposing sanctions, including an oil embargo.
“We’re the first Western major to return to Iran. We’re very happy,” Pouyanne, Total’s CEO, told AFP when the initial deal was signed in November.
Iran’s oil officials have been eager to attract Western investment and know-how to improve the outdated energy infrastructure.
Preliminary agreements were also signed in December with Shell and Russia’s Gazprom to develop oil and gas projects.
Such deals have not been without controversy in Iran, where the memory of exploitation by foreign firms in the early 20th century remains a highly sensitive topic.
Conservatives criticised the move to award tenders to foreign firms last year, forcing the oil ministry to state that domestic conglomerates, including one controlled by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, would be allowed to compete.
Source: News agencies
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the Islamic Republic, as per its core principles, opposes the use of chemical weapons in any form and by any group.
In a meeting with Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmet Üzümcü in Tehran on Sunday, Zarif added that Iran was itself a victim of chemical weapons by executed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, during the Iraqi imposed war.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always emphasized that no group has the right to use chemical weapons in armed conflicts,” Iran’s top diplomat said, adding, “However, the Daesh terrorist group has used chemical weapons in its war against the Syrian government.”
Zarif expressed Iran’s readiness to cooperate with the OPCW’s investigation into a chemical attack in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in April.
Dozens of people were killed in the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib on April 4.
The United States and its allies were quick to accuse the Syrian government forces of carrying out the attack. The Syrian army; however, said that “it has never used them (chemical weapons), anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future.”
Üzümcü, for his part, said Iran and the OPCW had a long history of cooperation and hailed Tehran’s readiness to help the organization probe the deadly chemical attack in Syria.
He pointed to the 30th anniversary of a deadly chemical attack by Saddam on the Iranian city of Sardasht and said the OPCW issued a statement on the anniversary of the event each year.
Sardasht was the third populated city in the world, after Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to be deliberately targeted with weapons of mass destruction.
It was also the first city in the world to be attacked with poisonous gas.
The actual death toll is far greater than announced. Nearly 5,000 residents of the city, which had a population of 20,000 at the time of the attack, are still suffering from serious respiratory and skin ailments and disorders.