China's state oil company has pulled out of a $5bn deal to develop a portion of Iran's massive offshore natural gas field, the Islamic republic's oil minister said on Sunday, an agreement from which France's Total SA earlier withdrew over US sanctions.
The South Pars field deal, struck in the wake of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, appears to be just the latest business casualty of America's pressure campaign on Tehran following President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal of the US from the deal.
It also comes as China and the US engage in their own trade war, as Beijing and Washington levy billions of dollars of tariffs on each other's goods.
Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh, quoted by the ministry's SHANA news agency, said on Sunday that the China National Petroleum Corp was "no longer in the project."
He did not elaborate or give any reason for the withdrawal, though SHANA said the company "had pulled out of a contract" to develop the field.
Officials in Beijing did not immediately acknowledge their decision. Phone calls to the CNPC rang unanswered on Sunday and its website bore no mention of the withdrawal.
However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif separately complained on Sunday about the US campaign against Tehran and its impact on foreign investments.
"We have been facing plenty of problems in the field of investment because of the US maximum pressure policy," Zarif told a parliamentary committee, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. "We are trying to remove the problems."
With Total's withdrawal, CNPC had taken over the French firm's stake. Now Petropars will develop the field alone, Zangeneh said.
Total first pulled out of Iran in 2006 as United Nations sanctions first took hold over fears Iran's atomic programme would be used to build nuclear weapons. Tehran has maintained its programme is only for peaceful purposes.
Iran cancelled another CNPC contract in 2012 amid increasing international sanctions which led to the 2015 nuclear deal.