Tehran: France is working on plans to issue direct loans to companies that want to invest in Iran, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a press conference in Tehran.

“We are trying to help these companies,” Sapin told reporters at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in Tehran at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Tayebnia. “They will be able to apply for loans, but it’s not active yet. We are working on this.”

French companies were among the first to return to Iran after sanctions were eased last year under Tehran’s nuclear deal with six world powers, but officials have said financing issues have hobbled some big infrastructure projects.

France’s largest banks have been reluctant to do business with the country because of remaining US sanctions, and Iran lacks access to major international lenders.

Sapin said he was “confident” that banking relations between France and Iran would be normalised in due time and said he was seeking clarification from the US government on the extent to which its sanctions will impact French banks working with Iran.

Iran’s largest state-run and partly state-run banks, Bank Melli and Bank Tejarat, have started brokerage services in France and were working with some French banks, Tayebnia said, declining to name them.