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Foreign trade Swiss-Iranian pipeline deal buried

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008

(Keystone)

Swiss energy concern Axpo’s much-publicised Iranian gas deal never came to fruition, as Axpo told the Swiss News Agency on Monday. The announcement comes on the eve of a Swiss trade delegation to Iran. 

The 25-year contract, made in 2008 between Axpo subsidiary EGL and the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC), received a lot of media attention – not least because the story featured photos of then Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey wearing a headscarf while witnessing the signing ceremony in Tehran. 

The United States criticised Switzerland after the deal was made, saying that it “violated the spirit” of the then US and United Nations sanctions forbidding investments in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Switzerland dismissed the accusation, saying that Switzerland had to defend its own strategic interests. 

At the time, the Swiss energy ministry said that it was in the nation’s interest to “support a company with a contract that helps to diversify the gas supply to Europe and indirectly to Switzerland”. Together with EGL, NIGEC would have delivered 5.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to Europe through a pipeline crossing from Greece via Albania to Italy. 

As Axpo explained to the Swiss News Agency, price, transport and political reasons all contributed to the deal’s quiet burial. Now the Axpo Group gets its gas from Azerbaijan.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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