China pulls out of Iran energy project amid pressure from U.S.

China has withdrawn from a $5 billion deal to help develop Iran’s massive South Pars natural gas field.

The South Pars gas field, shared by Iran and Qatar, is the world’s largest. / Wikimedia Commons

The action, announced by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on the ministry’s SHANA website, came during continued intense pressure on both nations from the Trump administration and follows a series of military confrontations in the Persian Gulf area between Iran and the naval forces of Great Britain and the United States.

Following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s energy sector, Iran’s crude oil exports were cut by more than 80 percent.

In response, Iran has scaled back its commitments under the nuclear deal, under which Teheran had agreed to cut back nuclear activities in return for lifting most international sanctions.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) became the dominant investor in plans for the expansion of South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, after France’s Total withdrew from the project in August 2018.

Total had planned to invest $1 billion under its 2017 contract with Iran, but backed out of the project amid pressure from Washington.

Zanganeh vowed that Iran “will use every possible way to export” its oil. “We will not succumb to America’s pressure because exporting oil is Iran’s legitimate right,” Zanganeh said.

On Oct. 6, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi reiterated that Iran will continue to reduce its compliance with commitments under the nuclear deal if European countries that signed the pact — France, Germany, and Great Britain — do not take steps to shield Iran’s economy from U.S. sanctions.

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