Economy, Business And Markets

Greece Hopes to Become Iran-EU Economic Link

Greece Hopes to Become Iran-EU Economic LinkGreece Hopes to Become Iran-EU Economic Link

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday became the first western leader to visit Iran since the lifting of trade sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation, as Greece aims to become a conduit between the European Union and Tehran.

“Greece will become an energy, economic and trade bridge between Iran and European Union,” the Greek prime minister said in Tehran, reads a Wall Street Journal article.

On Monday, Tsipras met Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who has already made a European tour to sign a number of business deals.

The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on energy, technology, commerce, tourism and construction, according to Greek officials.

Talks also focused on the importance of dealing with the self-styled Islamic State terrorists, improving stability in the region and finding a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict.

“Iran and its reintegration in the international community can play a role in stabilizing the wider region from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean,” Tsipras said after the meeting with Rouhani.

During the talks, the Greek premier also stressed the need for a reduction in the migration flows from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe via Greece, according to Greek officials.

“Iran is ready to expand its cooperation with the EU and Greece,” Rouhani said.

Greece and Iran launched discussions to resume Iranian oil deliveries to Greece in late January, when Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Amir-Hossein Zamaninia and other Iranian officials visited Athens.

Greece’s largest refinery, Hellenic Petroleum, also agreed to buy oil from the National Iranian Oil Company, marking the first sale of Iranian crude to a European country since the lifting of sanctions after an agreement between the major world powers and Iran over its nuclear program.

No Iranian oil has reached the EU since western sanctions were tightened in mid-2012 over Tehran’s nuclear energy program, apart from a small number of tankers delivered to Italy to honor pre-sanctions contracts.

Over the weekend, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said his country plans to eventually sell 300,000 barrels of crude a day to European customers.

Iran is trying to boost its oil exports by 500,000 barrels a day in the next few months, with much of the rest going to Asia.

Just days after international sanctions were lifted last month, the Iranian president traveled to Rome and Paris, the first European visit by an Iranian head of government since 1999.

After years of sanctions, Iran is eager to drum up foreign investment, unlocking pent-up demand for investment in transportation, energy and such durable consumer goods as automobiles. Iranian consumers have largely been limited to Chinese and Indian imports that dominated during the sanctions era.

The trip succeeded in reviving economic ties that had withered, as Iran, Italy and France cut billions in business deals.

French and Iranian companies and government ministries signed around 30 new business and trade deals. Those included an agreement for Airbus Group SE to sell 118 commercial jets to Iran Air and for oil giant Total SA to buy 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil a day. About €17 billion ($18.5 billion) of deals were also signed in Rome.

During his two-day visit in Iran this week, the Greek prime minister was accompanied by a delegation of ministers and senior government officials, as well as 30 business representatives.

The two nations signed a range of agreements aiming to upgrade the two countries’ diplomatic relations, including a memorandum for political deliberations, an agreement on visa exemption for diplomatic passports and a roadmap for the improvement of bilateral cooperation.