MNA – Norwegian Ambassador to Tehran, Lars Nordrum, said in an exclusive interview with Mehr News that Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA and will support EU’s promised financial mechanism to continue trade with Iran in the face of US sanctions.
Mehr News’s Marjohn Sheikhi sat down for an exclusive interview with Norwegian Ambassador to Tehran, Lars Nordrum, at MNA’s HQ on Sunday.
Nordrum talked about the participation of Norwegian companies in Iran’s renewable projects, oil and gas sector, as well as nuclear projects, voicing confidence that his country would be able to keep the companies in Iran in important sectors in the face of US sanctions.
Voicing regret over the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he maintained that Norway has the same policy as the EU when it comes to the JCPOA, saying that his country is working closely with Iran and the EU to help preserve the nuclear agreement.
The ambassador further stressed that despite the challenges facing trade cooperation these days, he was confident that economic relations between Tehran and Oslo would flourish in the long run.
Below is the full text of the interview:
What is the standing of economic relations between Iran and Norway? And how has the impending re-imposition of US economic sanctions against Tehran changed the level of trade transactions between the two countries so far?
I’m very glad to say that the trade between Norway and Iran is still increasing. It is a bit early to tell what the effects of the re-imposition of US sanctions will be, as some of them have yet to take effect. It will be easier to determine the future developments of trade in the months after November 4th. But so far the trade between the two countries is on the increase.
Do you think the sanctions would hit the two countries’ trade cooperation hard?
The effect of the end results is very hard to predict at this stage. But, we are doing everything we can and trying to come up with countermeasures, to protect our business interests. I think in Spring, a few months after November 4th, it’ll be easier to determine the full effect.
Iran has a comprehensive plan to harness renewables, and Norway seems to be very keen on aiding the country to achieve that. Norway’s Saga Energy and Scatec Solar have been in talks to build solar energy plants in Iran. Are those plans still on track? What other projects does Norway have in store for increasing Iran’s renewable energy capacity?
There are Norwegian companies in the field of renewable energy, be it solar or wind, that are still interested in doing business in Iran. I will not comment on any specific plans. I am confident that this will remain an important sector for Norwegian-Iranian cooperation going forward.
What is Norway’s share in Iran’s oil and gas projects?
I am not sure what that share might be. To protect our companies, I will not go into detail of their engagement. I can, however, say that Norway and Iran have a long history of cooperation in this field, and I am hopeful that some Norwegian companies will be able to continue to work in Iran despite the difficult situation we’re about to enter into.
How about the South Pars gas project, considering the fact that France’s total has abandoned its 50% share over US sanctions?
I won’t go into companies’ specifics or projects’ specifics, but we have companies in this sector active in Iran and I’m doing everything I can to help them continue their work in Iran beyond November 4th.
EU has promised the establishment of a “Special Purpose Vehicle” to facilitate trade with Iran. Given that Norway is not a member of EU, would your country still support and implement this promised measure?
Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA and fully supports EU efforts to preserve the agreement. I would say that we have the same policy as the EU when it comes to the JCPOA. There was very promising news coming from the JCPOA meeting in New York last week and Norway is working closely with Iran and the EU to help preserve the deal.
What is your opinion about the overall effectiveness of this mechanism in escaping US sanctions?
The details are not clear yet, and we haven’t passed the Nov. 4th, so I won’t speculate. Time will tell how effective the different measures are. But we have to make every effort to make it an effective vehicle. We are very supportive of the EU efforts to make this work.
What other plans, apart from the EU collective efforts, does Norway have to maintain and develop its economic relations with Iran in the face of US sanctions?
As an ambassador, it is my top priority to help Norwegian businesses in Iran. Currently financial transaction is a big challenge. I hope we can overcome this. We are working closely with the EU to find solutions for our businesses.
Can the two countries rely on the potential of the private sector and SMEs to make up for any limitations and deficiencies in trade ties in the face of the impending US sanctions?
I believe the SMEs are crucial. In Norway’s case, the vast majority of companies fall into the SME category. It is my hope that many of them can continue doing business in Iran despite US sanctions.
Do these SMEs have connections with the US which could still affect their business with Iran?
Some of them have business in the US, and some do not. I am trying to help as best as I can. But I think it’s important for my country since most of our companies are SMEs, and in this situation that might be an advantage because it might be easier for SMEs to remain in Iran than the large, multinational corporations.
And how do you describe the overall attitude of Norwegian companies for continuing their business with Iran? Are they too much concerned over US sanctions or are they actually more optimistic?
It’s a mixed picture. I think many companies are determined to stay and make it work despite the US sanctions. Other companies have large interests in the US and are naturally very worried about the consequences for that business. So it’s a very mixed picture, but I’m confident that we will be able to keep many Norwegian companies here in important sectors.
Back in June, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi visited Norwegian nuclear centers and held talks with relevant authorities there. What were the achievements of that visit in regard to Iran-Norway’s nuclear cooperation?
Vice President Salehi had an extensive visit to Oslo in June, and I went along with him. Among many things on his agenda was possible continued cooperation in the nuclear field. Norway played an important role prior to the implementation of the JCPOA in replacing highly enriched uranium with natural uranium. The two agencies are now talking to each other about how to possibly continue and follow up this cooperation.
What is Norway’s stance toward US’ unilateral measures, particularly with respect to its withdrawal from the nuclear deal and its pressure on other countries to stop doing business with Iran?
We regret the US decision to pull out of the JCPOA and are determined to keep our end of the deal. My Prime Minister reaffirmed this in a meeting with President Rouhani last week in New York. We are fully committed, and our end of the bargain is to try to make the business cooperation work as best as possible, and that is my number one priority as an ambassador to Iran.
What is in store for the future of Iran-Norway’s economic cooperation?
I am optimistic when it comes to the future of our economic cooperation with Iran. I will not hide the fact that we are faced with many challenges and hurdles there days. But despite these and in the long run, I am absolutely confident that economic relations between our countries will flourish.