Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivered a message of “friendship, engagement, co-operation and peaceful coexistence” on 23 January, signaling his country’s intention to seek constructive engagement with the world. But many critics remain skeptical about Tehran’s real intentions.
Nevertheless, Iran’s oil and gas reserves are huge and Rouhani with Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told some of the world’s top oil executives, including Italy’s ENI, France’s Total, Britain’s BP, Russia’s LUKoil and GazpromNeft, at the World Economic Forum that Iran will have a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September. The Iranian officials stressed that their new administration was keen to open up to Western investments and technology.
Iran, which is a key member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has already said it wants Western oil companies to revive its massive but ageing oilfields and develop new oil and gas fields once sanctions are lifted.
Rouhani urged business leaders to travel to Iran to explore extensive opportunities for investment. The security of production and supply is the biggest factor in using energy to promote peace and stability, he said.
Fadel Gheit, a senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer in New York, told New Europe on 24 January that Iran is in desperate need of western investment, capital and technology as well as project management. He reminded that Tehran has been in the “penalty box” since the hostage crisis in the American embassy. “Talk is cheap, but we want to see if Iran is going to change its behavior to earn the trust of both the western governments as well as the western companies. The projects that we’re talking about are in the billions of dollars and will take years to fully complete,” Gheit said, highlighting Iran’s “tremendous energy resources and tremendous human capital”.
Tehran has started implementing a nuclear deal with world powers, a step towards a broad settlement which could lead to the end of sanctions. “Iran will have definitely to show they are abandoning their nuclear ambition,” Gheit said. But they have the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use, he added.
Rouhani emphasised that Iran will not accept being discriminated against as it develops nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and called on all nations to create conducive conditions in Syria for free and fair elections. “My view of social, economic and political issues is one of prudent moderation,” he told the forum. “The people of Iran opted for this approach and now they are demanding its implementation. The Iranian people’s choice has been welcomed in the region and internationally.”
Rouhani also met European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on the sidelines of the forum. “Iran should use this window of opportunity with determination to move to a comprehensive long-term solution on the nuclear issue,” Barroso said.
Gheit noted that the sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. “It hurt them pretty badly,” he said. “It’s a brutal regime and we’ll see how it’s going to change,” he said. If the government provides incentives and assurances to western governments and western companies, Gheit said, Iran will become a very attractive area for western companies, especially energy companies.
follow on twitter @energyinsider