Iran urged Europe Monday to speed up efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in May, saying French oil group Total has formally pulled out a major gas project. Efforts by the remaining signatories – EU members Britain, France and Germany plus China and Russia – to avoid the agreement’s collapse are struggling as Washington has said any firms dealing with Teheran will be barred from doing business in the United States.
“Europeans and other signatories of the deal have been trying to save the deal … but the process has been slow. It should be accelerated,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
“Iran relies mainly on its own capabilities to overcome America’s new sanctions,” he told a news conference broadcast on state TV.
European states have been scrambling to ensure Iran gets enough economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal, which Trump said was “deeply flawed.”
Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran in August, targeting its trade in gold and other precious metals, purchases of U.S. dollars and its car industry.
The European powers, China and Russia say they will do more to encourage their businesses to remain engaged with Iran.
But the threat of the U.S. sanctions has prompted many major companies to pull out of Iran.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said France’s Total has formally left a contract to develop Iran’s South Pars Gas project. “The process to replace [Total] with another company is underway,” he was quoted as saying by state TV.
Total, which signed the deal in 2017 with an initial investment of $1 billion, confirmed that it had notified the Iranian authorities of its withdrawal from the deal after it failed to obtain a waiver from U.S. sanctions.
Iranian officials had earlier suggested that China’s state-owned CNPC could take over Total’s stake in the offshore project. Working to maintain financial channels with Tehran and facilitate Iran’s oil exports, the European Union has taken steps to counter the renewed U.S. sanctions, including forbidding EU citizens from complying with them or related court rulings. Washington has said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept Trump’s offer to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal.
Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected the offer.
“We do not want to revisit that nuclear deal. We want the United States to implement that  nuclear deal” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN Sunday.
“I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions,” Zarif added.
“We felt that the United States had learned that at least as far as Iran is concerned, sanctions do produce economic hardship but do not produce the political outcomes that they intended them to produce,” he said.
“I thought that the Americans had learned that lesson. Unfortunately, I was wrong,” he said.