(Reuters) The United States has begun unblocking deals by Western planemakers to renew Iran’s ageing passenger fleet in a move likely to ease growing complaints from Tehran over the implementation of last year’s historic sanctions deal.
Europe’s Airbus said on Wednesday it had received U.S. Treasury approval to begin exporting jetliners to Iran and its U.S. rival Boeing said it looked forward to receiving similar licenses “shortly”.
The move signals the unfreezing of one of the most high-profile deals between Iran and foreign companies since last year’s agreement between Tehran and world powers to open up trade in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear activities.
But complex questions remain over the financing of deals between Iran and Western planemakers that could still obstruct deliveries of many of the planes, in what is seen as a test case for Western trade and investment following the nuclear deal.
Earlier this year, Airbus and its U.S. rival Boeing each signed deals to supply over 100 jets to flag carrier IranAir to modernize and expand the country’s elderly fleet, held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions.
But nine months after the first deal was signed, Iranian officials have voiced growing concerns about what they see as slow progress in obtaining in the U.S. licenses needed for most modern aircraft because of their ample use of U.S. parts.
An Iranian official told Reuters earlier this week that its deal for 118 Airbus jets was being trimmed by six units following the regulatory delays.
Airbus said on Wednesday it had been granted an initial license to supply 17 A320 or A330 jets that are slated for early delivery, and that it expected a second license covering the remaining aircraft within the next few weeks.
Aviation sources said the U.S. Treasury was expected within “days” to begin unblocking Boeing’s deal to sell or lease over 100 jets.
Iran has also ordered up to 40 Franco-Italian ATR SIFI.MI turboprop planes that are awaiting Washington’s green light.