A senior Iranian aviation official has arrived in Vienna to discuss lifting sanctions on the country's aviation sector as part of nuclear talks with world powers, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Sanctions on the sector have been in place since the 1970s.
However, Boeing Co, the world's biggest airplane maker, and engine maker General Electric Co said on Friday they had received licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department to sell certain spare parts for commercial aircraft to Iran under an interim deal agreed in November that went into effect on Jan. 20.
Interaction between Iran and the U.S. companies would be the first acknowledged dealings between the U.S. aerospace sector and Iran since shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, when hardline Iranian students seized the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Under the November deal, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited relief of sanctions. Negotiations on a long-term deal are currently under way in Vienna, with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia participating along with Iran.
The preliminary deal provides for the sale of parts to Iranian flag carrier Iranair, whose fleet includes vintage Boeing and Airbus jetliners delivered as long ago as 1978.
“Managing director of Iranair Farhad Parvaresh is in Vienna to possibly discuss sanctions imposed on Iran's aviation [sector],” Fars said on Tuesday, without elaborating.
GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said the U.S. Treasury had approved the company's application to service 18 engines sold to Iran in the late 1970s. They will be serviced at facilities owned by GE or Germany's MTU Aero Engines, which is licensed to do the work.
He said the license covered only components needed to ensure continued safe flight operations of older Boeing planes sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution, and did not allow any discussions about sales of new aircraft to Iran.
The American embassy seizure in 1979 led to U.S. sanctions on Iran, which were broadened in the past decade over Iran's perceived nuclear ambitions.
Iran has repeatedly said the sanctions have prevented it from renewing its air fleet, blaming the sanctions for more than 200 air accidents since 1990 that have caused over 2,000 deaths, according to official news agency IRNA.
A senior Iranian official told Reuters in November that Iran could require between 250 and 400 jets if and when sanctions are lifted completely.
The six world powers want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment activity to deny it any capability to quickly produce an atomic bomb, if it decided on such a course. Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and wants them to lift sanctions.