British energy company BP said Thursday it hired John Sawers, the former head of spy agency MI6, as a non-executive director.
Sawers, a 36-year veteran of international affairs in the British government, led MI6 for five years ending 2014. Serving as a chairman at geopolitical advisory firm Macro Advisory Partners, the British company said he’ll serve as a non-executive director.
BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Sawers brings with him “extensive” international experience.
The former MI6 chief in 2010 said the intelligence agency was using means beyond “conventional diplomacy” to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In 2012, he said the work had kept Iran from full-scale weaponization.
Iran is “two years away [from becoming a] nuclear weapons state,” he said at the time.
BP shares ownership of the Rhum natural gas field in the North Sea with the Iranian Oil Company. Production at the field was stopped in 2010 because of sanctions imposed against Iran, but the British government allowed BP to continue working through its Iranian partnership two years later.
“Rhum and its neighboring fields make an important contribution to the U.K.’s long-term energy security which is responsible for up to four percent of the U.K.’s annual gas production,” a 2012 government statement read. “The government supports restarting production at Rhum, which is necessary to avoid potential environmental damage and to prevent the possible destruction of the value of the field.”
Iran secured modest sanctions relief through a 2013 agreement with international powers. Tehran said it expects foreign investors will flock to its oil sector if an April framework deal is formalized later this year.
David Nicholas, director of BP’s press office in London, would not address anything specific related to Iran when asked Thursday about the appointment.
“His huge diplomatic experience and understanding of geopolitics, gained internationally at the very highest level, make him an extremely strong addition to BP’s board,” he said in response to emailed questions.