London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Saturday to speed up development of the giant South Pars gas field off the coast of southern Iran, amid expectations of the easing of sanctions following November’s interim agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
During a visit to the southern Iranian port of Asalouyeh, Rouhani said his government plans to create an economic “epic” in the South Pars gas field, which is shared between Iran and Qatar, and is considered as the largest independent gas reservoir in the world.
“The government of prudence and hope is determined to create [an] economic epic in South Pars as the capital of the country’s energy,” Rouhani said, according to ISNA news agency, as he toured the infrastructure already under construction to tap the gas field.
The Iranian president claimed that the country’s income from South Pars will reach USD 100 billion a year when fully developed, and vowed that output on the Iranian side will be equal to Qatar’s by 2017.
Although Iran has the second biggest natural gas reserves in the world after Russia, it has lagged far behind Qatar in developing the shared gas field, thanks in large part to US and international sanctions.
“The international atmosphere was supposed to get calmer than before, so that we can use it for the country’s development,” Rouhani said.
He added that the country’s current atmosphere has improved, noting that “it does not mean that our rivals have stopped [being] adversaries, but the situation has changed in general.”
Last week, some officials suggested that European Union sanctions against Iran could be eased as soon as December, in response to a historic interim deal that gives Tehran six months to improve access to its nuclear sites for international inspectors in exchange for keeping the core components of its uranium enrichment program.
“It could be in December, it could be in January, it depends on how long the legislative process takes,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Michael Mann told reporters in Brussels last Monday.
Meanwhile, it seems that foreign companies are lining up to do big business with Iran, now that the country has won limited sanctions relief in the recent Geneva nuclear accord.
For example, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of the French oil giant Total, has announced that his company will resume transactions with Iran if the sanctions are revoked.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Wednesday that his country and Iran intend to expand the volume of bilateral trade to USD 30 billion in 2015, and to USD 100 billion in 2020.
Pakistan is also holding intensive talks in a bid to complete the gas pipe from Iran to Islamabad.
Moreover, according to press reports, India is sending a team to Iran to accelerate work on a port that will provide access to resource-rich Central Asia and Afghanistan.
The port of Chabahar in southeast Iran is central to India’s efforts to circumvent Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan where India has developed close security ties and economic interests.
The port on the Gulf of Oman is 44 miles from Pakistan’s deepwater Gwadar port, which China has built as part of a plan to open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China.