July 28 (UPI) -- An agreement with an Iranian engineering services company expressed mutual interest in working in the oil fields of Iran, a Russian energy company said.
Russian energy company Gazprom Neft signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran's Oil Industries' Engineering & Construction. The agreement confirms "both companies' mutual interest in combining forces in the preliminary assessment and investigation of the geological potential of oil fields located in the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Russian company stated.
The memorandum came as both sides faced pressure from U.S. lawmakers. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives, in a 419-3 vote, opted to toughen sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the measure "tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries."
Russia is under pressure from U.S. lawmakers for meddling in elections last year, an accusation the Kremlin denies. Long one of Washington's top adversaries, the House vote was followed by the Iranian launch of a rocket that could carry satellites into low-earth orbit.
On energy matters, the Iranian Oil Ministry published a list in January of 29 foreign oil and gas companies that are qualified to take part in any upcoming tenders for exploration and production. Earlier this month, Gholamreza Manouchehri, deputy for development and engineering at the National Iranian Oil Co., said President Hassan Rouhani has set of goal of signing 10 new development deals by the end of the Iranian calendar year, March 20.
"The parties have agreed to hold joint consultations with the National Iranian Oil Co. on the evaluation, exploration and development of assets offered to investors, and to consider additional opportunities for cooperation in the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Russian company stated. "The signed memorandum of understanding does not grant Gazprom Neft and the OIEC exclusive rights, and does not restrict the company from negotiating and entering into agreements with third parties."
Apart from Russia, which has supplied fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear project, European companies are among those expressing interest in tapping Iranian resources. French energy company Total in early July led a consortium in signing the first major contract with Iran in year to help develop parts of the giant South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.