- Energy pact could be signed on Iran as early as November
- Agreement depends on U.S. review of nuclear pact with Iran
The European Union is working on a political agreement that would set the stage for future energy deals in Iran, two people with direct knowledge of the talks said.
The agreement could be signed as soon as November, they said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. The accord would pave the way for any talks on specific contracts in the future and would come only after the nuclear deal reached in July between Iran and world powers enters into force, the people said.
Europe is seeking new supplies of energy to reduce its dependence on imports from Russia, which provides 27 percent of the gas consumed in the region. In a policy paper last year, the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, said that countries including Iran could contribute to that goal.
The deal would cover five areas: oil and natural gas contracts, renewables and energy efficiency, power markets, energy infrastructure and investing directly in Iran’s energy industry, the people said.
In Tehran, both the government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht and the public relations office at the oil ministry weren’t answering phone calls on Thursday, before the weekend started Iran.
In Brussels, the European Commission said in a reply to questions that it “will explore areas of bilateral cooperation including on energy” once the nuclear deal is in effect. For now, it’s focusing on preparatory work for launching a dialogue on energy with Iran “when the conditions are right.”
The EU banned Iranian oil imports in 2012 and imposed extra curbs on the country’s energy industry in a bid to persuade the government in Tehran to allow greater scrutiny of its nuclear program. Before the sanctions, EU oil imports from Iran accounted for about 6 percent of the total.
Iran reached a deal last month with the U.S. and five other Western powers that would curb its nuclear program in return for easing sanctions.
The U.S. Congress has until Sept. 17 to vote on the agreement. Fourth-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray said yesterday she will back the accord, bringing President Barack Obama within five Senate votes of the total needed to keep Congress from blocking the agreement.
EU Energy and Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete is planning to meet the European oil and gas industry officials in Brussels next week. Later in September, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, is scheduled to meet Iranian officials at the United Nations general assembly in New York. The agenda includes work on energy cooperation.