Iran, Switzerland ink key gas deal

March 18, 2008

TEHRAN -- A Swiss company has signed a natural gas purchase contract with Iran, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced here on Monday in a news conference with her Iranian counterpart Manuchehr Mottaki.

Switzerland’s Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg (EGL) sighed a 25-year deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company for the delivery of 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.
“We have a strategic interest to secure our gas supplies and diversify our gas suppliers,” Reuters quoted the Swiss minister as saying.
“We have to import all our gas and oil,” she added.
She said the deal was “important in a long-term perspective” for both sides.
She said in Geneva on Sunday, before traveling to Tehran that the agreement could help ease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
The gas will be pumped to one of EGL's power stations in Italy.
The deal comes despite U.S. pressure on European countries to cut their business ties with Tehran as a means to pressure it to give up its right to nuclear enrichment.
Mottaki congratulated the Swiss gas company “for its foresight in diversifying its energy resources”.
“We hope this agreement would open a new chapter in the two countries’ economic cooperation,” he noted.
Iran cooperation with IAEA praiseworthy
Calmy-Rey appreciated Iran’s enhanced voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
She urged the Islamic Republic to continue its cooperation with the IAEA in order to win the support and trust of the international community about its nuclear activities.
Mottaki appreciated Switzerland’s positive approach toward Iran-IAEA cooperation and told reporters that in their meeting he had explained to her that Tehran’s collaboration with the agency has led to resolving all the remaining issues, and this was also stated in the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report on Feb. 22.
“From now on we will continue our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and the agency’s charter as a normal country with normal condition,” Mottaki asserted.
Switzerland has independent stance on Iran
The Iranian foreign minister said that his talks with his Swiss counterpart were “useful” in various areas.
“We talked about mutual economic cooperation, continuation of political relations, and maintaining the consultations. We also discussed the recent developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.”
Switzerland has a rather “independent” stance toward Iran.
The Swiss Embassy in Tehran has been acting as an intermediary between Iran and the U.S. as the two countries have no diplomatic relationship.
He also stated that they discussed concern over the condition of Muslims in Europe, and also held talks about insults to Islamic sanctities in Europe.
“Ms. Calmy-Rey’s constructive views in those areas have made it possible for the two countries to continue the process of talks,” he noted.
Bern’s approach to the Middle East issues is positive, Mottaki said, adding that the country has tried to take some humanitarian steps, especially in regard to recent developments in the Gaza Strip