The first big energy contract signed between a European company and Iran will go ahead as scheduled, Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said, speaking in Washington.

The US$4.8 billion deal to develop South Pars – the largest natural gas field in the world – was signed by Iran and a consortium led by the French energy company last July.

Amid widespread speculation that President Trump will not recertify the Iran nuclear deal, Pouyanné was quoted as saying “we knew when we signed that it will not be an easy road,” Mr Pouyanné. “But I prefer to have a problem to solve and to have the opportunity rather than having not signed [and] no opportunities.”

If Trump were to decide not to recertify, the US Congress would have 60 days to decide on whether or not to impose sanctions.