Egypt has missed its target for reducing outstanding payments to foreign oil companies, according to a report by Reuters citing a Petroleum Ministry official.

Outstanding arrears to foreign oil companies rose to $3.2bn at the end of March from $3bn at the end of December, the report said. The ministry said in September 2015 that it would reduce outstanding payments to $2.5bn by the end of 2015 and pay off the companies completely by the end of 2016.

Egypt distributed $1.5bn in owed money in October 2014 to international oil companies in late March in an effort to win back the trust of the foreign firms.

The lack of payments has caused delays in some major oil and gas projects in Egypt including the multibillion-dollar West Delta Deep Marine gas field development scheme.