0549 GMT March 25, 2019
Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi on Sunday said the European Union took a “positive step toward fulfilling its commitments” after Iran Air took delivery of five more ATR turboprop aircraft.
Iran’s flag carrier said that all five new ATR 72-600 planes that had left France’s Toulouse earlier in the day landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport on Sunday morning after a short stop for refueling in the northwestern city of Urmia.
Speaking at Mehrabad, Akhoundi hailed the arrival of the passenger planes, saying it was the result of wisdom and constructive talks with the world.
He expressed hope that cooperation with the EU and other countries, such as China, Russia, India, and Turkey, would help Iran weather the current difficult situation.
ATR – co-owned by Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo – has been pressing US authorities to allow it to deliver aircraft it built for Iran under a deal to reopen trade links in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear activities.
In the wake of that deal, Iran Air ordered a total of 200 aircraft from Western plane makers including 20 from ATR, which is based in Toulouse, France.
But few have been delivered and US President Donald Trump’s decision in May to pull the United States out of the nuclear deal gives most companies until Aug. 7 to complete ongoing business with Iran before new US sanctions apply.
Other parties to the deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – strongly opposed the US withdrawal and expressed their determination to maintain their business links with Iran.
Plane makers say they are unable to use this window because Washington has also revoked export licenses needed by all Western plane makers due to their heavy use of US parts.
ATR – which had delivered eight planes to Iran under the deal and started building another 12 – has been lobbying the US Treasury to allow it to take advantage of the normal wind-down period for Iran business by giving it temporary new licenses.
ATR declined to comment on Saturday. Industry sources said the final number of planes to be delivered would be known in the coming days.
The US decision on Iran has raised question marks over whether ATR can reach a target of stabilizing annual deliveries at 80 aircraft in 2018.
The plane manufacturer has said it will suffer financial damage if it cannot deliver the aircraft it has already produced following earlier US approvals, and is looking for alternative buyers.
Akhoundi took a swipe at Trump whom he said “has created a climate of great uncertainty in the world.”
“It is important to know how to act under such conditions in order to remain unaffected by US measures,” he said.
Apart from the deal with ATR, Iran also signed agreements with global aviation giants Airbus and Boeing for the purchase of scores of planes in 2016.
Airbus said last month it would not attempt to deliver any more planes to Iran in the wind-down period. It has delivered just three of 100 ordered by Iran Air.
Boeing, which had sold 80 jets to Iran Air under the 2015 nuclear deal, does not plan any deliveries. Unlike the European firms, it never placed the Iranian deal in its official order book on the grounds that it never received a deposit.
Reuters, Press TV, and IRNA contributed to this story.