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Will Iran challenge Russian interests in European natural gas market?

Iranian gas exports have been held back not only by sanctions, but also by Iran's lack of energy infrastructure and the country's domestic calculations.
EDITORS' NOTE:  Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran.

The SPQ1 gas platform is seen on the southern edge of Iran's South Pars gas field in the Gulf, off Assalouyeh, 1,000 km (621 miles) south of Tehran, January 26, 2011. Picture taken January 26.  REUTERS/Caren Firouz (IRAN - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY) - RTXX59M

Statements by Iranian officials on Tehran’s intentions to enter the European gas market still remain part of the political game played by Islamic Republic authorities to make the West more inclined to lift sanctions and restore its economic ties with Iran. To date, however, these statements seem to have had more effect on the behavior of the Russian government and its hydrocarbon companies than on European companies.

Since the late 1990s, Iranian authorities have been promising to help European countries decrease their dependence on gas supplies from Russia. Between 2006 and 2015, at the least, international sanctions were a major obstacle blocking implementation of projects that were supposed to ensure Iran’s access to the European gas market. European corporations, fearing being hit by Western sanctions, did not dare to develop a presence in the Iranian oil and gas sector beyond mere talks and discussions. Nevertheless, the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the beginnings of a gradual lifting of limits on cooperation with Iran clearly demonstrated that the core of the issue was not rooted exclusively in the sanctions but rather also involved Iran's energy infrastructure. Iranian natural gas still will not reach the European Union market in the medium term.

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