Iran has announced that it is opening its oil export market to the private sector in response to intensified international sanctions on Iran’s petroleum products.

The Mehr News agency reports that, according to a new agreement, “an Iranian consortium comprising private firms is to export 20 percent of its oil exports to international markets, including the EU.”

The deal, which reportedly will account for 400 to 500 thousand barrels a day, has been signed between the Central Bank of Iran, the Oil Ministry and a group of exporters of oil derivatives.

Hassan Khosrojerdi, the head of this group, said: “For implementing this plan, a consortium consisting of exporters with good reputations has been established” and he added that the group’s first contract will be signed this week.

If the deal is successful, the National Iranian Oil Company has indicated that it will cease to enforce any limits on the amount of oil exported through the private sector.

Khosrojerdi said: “Negotiations have been conducted with some European refiners, and a deal has been done.”

Iranian Parliament approved a law in May allowing the private sector to enter the oil export business for the first time ever.

The European Union’s embargo on Iranian crude took effect on July 1, just after new U.S. measures against countries and companies that buy a significant amount of Iranian oil kicked in on June 28.

The result has been a significant decline in Iran’s oil exports over the past few months.