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10 Feb, 2016

Iranian airlines ready to take on Gulf giants

Iran News Roundup. Click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

Iranian airlines ready to take on Gulf giants

Ottawa lifts Iran sanctions, to restore ties

Iranian, British embassies to issue visas soon

Sanctions lifted, American tourists head to Iran

Foreign investors receive 3-year work permit in Iran

41 types of world wetlands recognized in Iran

Iranian banks reconnect to SWIFT: CBI

Minister: Iran, Kazakhstan to expand agricultural cooperation

Trade minister: Iran links Kazakhstan to high seas

Chinese private bank opens in Qeshm Island

Deputy FM: Failure of Iranophobia scenario great gain of JCPOA

Iran planning to build refineries in six countries

Iranian airlines ready to take on Gulf giants

Tehran, Feb 5, IRNA – The Iranian government has officially placed an order with Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus for 118 airplanes. By any standard this is a large order estimated at $27 billion.

The order includes 45 single-aisle planes: 21 from the current-generation A320 family and 24 re-engined A320neos. The 73 wide-body aircraft ordered include 27 A330s, 18 A330neos, 16 of Airbus’s latest A350s–in the stretched -1000 variant, plus the A380s.

This is an intriguing mix of airplanes. While some aircraft like the variety of Airbus 320 are suitable for regional operations and will serve medium-range routes within Iran and between Iran’s neighboring countries and destinations in Iran, the larger Airbus 380 can only be profitably employed in continental flights.

In the Middle East, Airbus 380s and Boeing 777s have been successful. Emirates and Qatar Airways use the long range continental airplanes to establish passengers’ air transit corridors connecting North America and Europe to the subcontinent, East Asia and Africa.

Iranian airlines are well aware of the potential of international air travel market. They are also aware that Iran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport is much closer to Europe–Asia corridor than airports located on the southern shore of Persian Gulf.

Iran’s purchase of Airbus 380 only means one thing: Iranian airlines are returning to international competition for air transit from Europe to Asia and Africa.

Iranian airlines also benefit from the increasing demand for air travel to Iran. The Iranian expatriate communities in North America and Europe, American and European citizens of Iranian parents and an increasing number of foreign tourists travel to Iran regularly.

The Airbus deal is Iran’s first strategically significant move to become an economic regional power in the 21st century.

No one in the aviation community has any doubt that this order means Iran wants to be a significant player in aviation markets across Europe, Asia and Africa and even across North America.

Committing itself to such a large investment in renovating Iran’s aging air fleet means that Iran’s determination to return to market is no longer questionable.

Iranian airlines are returning to the skies to face the competition, and to face it on equal terms.

(Ali Dadpay, Financial Tribune)

Ottawa lifts Iran sanctions, to restore ties

Tehran, Feb 6, IRNA – The Canadian government announced on Friday that is has lifted a portion of its sanctions imposed against Iran to help the two countries restore their diplomatic relations.

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that it has amended its ‘broad-reaching autonomous sanctions against Iran to allow for a controlled economic re-engagement, including removal of broad bans on financial services, imports and exports’.

A statement issued by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says the changes announced Friday mean ‘Canadian companies will now be better positioned to compete with other companies globally.’

All applications for export permits will be considered on a case-by-case basis, read part of the statement.

This is seen by the media as a key step to make Canadian companies more competitive against rivals doing business in Iran.

Nevertheless, the country has emphasized that it will continue to maintain tight restrictions on exports to Iran of goods, services and technologies considered sensitive from a security perspective.

Dion was quoted by the Canadian media as saying that the country is considering the restoration of diplomatic contacts with Iran, as well.

He had said last week that if Airbus is allowed to sell to Iran, then Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier Inc should be allowed to export there as well.

Iranian, British embassies to issue visas soon

London, Feb 9, IRNA – Ministers of foreign affairs of Iran and Britain emphasized here on Friday that visa issuance sections of the two countries in Tehran and London will soon begin issuing visas.

Mohammad Javad Zarif and Phillip Hammond who were speaking with the press at the end of their 90-minute talks said that the visa issuance by the two embassies will begin within a couple of weeks.

Zarif said that the opportunity to talk with some British official bilaterally in London was very satisfactory for both sides.

‘In addition to the bilateral issues and regional developments we talked about the way of implementing the JCPOA, banking and economic cooperation, and making investments,’ added the Iranian top diplomat.

He said that resuming visa issuance by the two countries’ embassies is a positive move that will lead to greater interactions between the two nations, and hopefully to better comprehension of each nation of the other one.

The British foreign minister, too, in response to a question on the delay in re-establishment of banking relations between the two countries banks said that in collaboration with the German, French and Iranian colleagues, London is trying to solve the existing problems.

Sanctions lifted, American tourists head to Iran

Tehran, Feb 9, IRNA – The lifting of sanctions on Iran last month has resulted in a surge of bookings, tour operators say, many from Americans undeterred by a State Department warning laying out the risks of taking trips there.

Tour operators say the demand has been so acute that they are racing to add new departures and selling them in record time.

“It’s similar to Cuba in my mind where suddenly it’s both O.K. to go there officially but also with travelers thinking this place is going to change,” said Barbara Banks, director of marketing and new trip development at the Berkeley, Calif.-based Wilderness Travel, which sold out its spring trip to Iran and is planning a fall trip focused on the saffron harvest. “They want to experience the destination before it gets watered down by lots and lots of people going.”

Tourism in Iran is already popular with Europeans. Iranian officials told The Associated Press last fall that about five million foreign travelers visited Iran in 2014, and that the country aims to attract 20 million tourists, spending $30 billion, by 2025.

Among growth signs, Air France recently announced that it plans to start three flights weekly between Paris and Tehran beginning in April. Already Iran is a one-stop destination from New York via Istanbul, Dubai or Doha on Turkish Airlines, Emirates or Qatar Airways.

Iran hosts some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments, including 19 Unesco World Heritage Sites, and its varied terrain ranges from desert locales to ski resorts.

“It’s just extraordinarily beautiful, and the sites are as magnificent as any you can find in the world,” said William O. Beeman, a professor and chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota and an expert in Iran. “Isfahan is comparable to Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. These are major centers of civilization that have been lovingly restored.”

He plans to take 14 travelers to Iran in June on a sold-out trip organized by Iran Luxury Travel, a two-year-old company in North Carolina. Steve Kutay, a former importer, founded Iran Luxury Travel in his retirement “as a good thing to do,” he said, in terms of encouraging people-to-people diplomacy (trips start at $2,995 a person, double occupancy for eight days).

“One of the biggest surprises about Iran is that they love Americans,” he said. “They hear you speak English and assume you’re British, and when they learn you’re American they want to have their picture taken with you and invite you to eat. I’ve never been so popular.”

The State Department warning, however, says that travelers should be wary, noting, “Various elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States.” Last month, Iran freed four Americans of Iranian descent, including a reporter from The Washington Post but the State Department still warns that people with both Iranian and American citizenship in particular risk detention.

Intrepid travelers are booking tours anyway. In response to an increase in inquiries, the Seattle-based Mir Corporation, which has been operating in Iran for 15 years, has added new train trips and small group departures in the country this year, for a total of about 10 different trips.

“We’d seen it for a while but as people become comfortable with Iran on the world scene, they think it may be a good time to do something they may have wanted to do for a while,” said Annie Lucas, vice president at Mir. “We feel there’s pent-up demand on the part of intrepid travelers.”

This year, Britain-based Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which has run tours via sleeper trains in Iran since 2014, reports that Americans account for 88 percent of its passengers in Iran, compared with about 50 percent in previous years. The company has added a 2016 departure between Moscow and Tehran over 18 days in addition to its 14-day Heart of Persia tour that includes Isfahan, notable for its Islamic architecture; Shiraz, known for its gardens; and Persepolis, ancient ceremonial center of the Achaemenid Empire.

Some operators who waited for political clearance to go into Iran are now organizing departures. Norman Howe, president of the luxury tour operator Butterfield & Robinson, said inquiries about Iran began spiking the last few months. The company is organizing several private trips and hopes to run a small group trip in November, to be regularly scheduled come 2017.

His clients “were waiting for Iran to normalize and they want to get there before the crowds,” he said.

Where to lodge the growing numbers of travelers may pose a challenge to the country even though Iran’s PressTV reported a dozen new hotels had been built in the past two years, and AccorHotels opened two hotels in Tehran in October.

“The issue now for us as a tour operator is there aren’t enough hotels,” said Ms. Lucas of Mir, who noted that some of the hotels in areas beyond the big cities are worn out. “There’s overdemand and not enough supply.”

It is still difficult to arrange a trip. American travelers must obtain a visa before traveling to Iran, a fairly straightforward process, according to tour operators, but a slow one that can run to months, limiting spontaneous travel.

Americans in Iran must also be accompanied by a guide. Banking restrictions, which largely bar the use of credit cards and A.T.M.s, force travelers to bring cash.

In keeping with Islamic rules, women must cover their hair and dress conservatively, in loose long-sleeved tunics that go at least to the knee. Men, too, cannot wear shorts.

There are other inconveniences, Ms. Lucas said: “The infrastructure is not perfect, but it’s pretty good. The roads are decent. No alcohol can be roughing it for some people. The public bathrooms are not on par with what people would like. But the caliber of attractions and guides balance it out.” (nytimes.com)

Foreign investors receive 3-year work permit in Iran

Tehran, Feb 8, IRNA – Foreign investors will be provided with work and sojourn permit for 3 years for at least 300,000 dollars investment, Director General for Foreign Nationals Employment Department of Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Aqbali said on Monday.

Aqbali said that the department adopted legal instrument to distinguish businessmen, producers, industrialists and labors providing the investors and businessmen with opportunity to extend their economic activities to entire country not just in one province.

Meanwhile, he said that the department adopted measures to provide the artists and authors and experts with jobs in cultural institutes and other related fields.

Aqbali said that upon articles 17, 18, 19 of Refugees Convention, Iran undertook to register 51 jobs in refugees work permit cards.

The Afghan citizens, who have enough capital to establish a company, can cancel their refugee card and receive passport to use its advantages, he said.

The official said that foreign nationals having passport and registration of a company in Iran may receive a work and sojourn permit for one year and may do their economic activities in special free zones or other parts of the country.

41 types of world wetlands recognized in Iran

Orumiyeh, Feb 8, IRNA – An official with Ramsar Wetlands Convention Secretariat Camilla Chalmers said that out of forty-two types of wetlands in the world forty-one types have been recognized in Iran.

Speaking in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a trip to West Azerbaijan, Chalmers said that regarding wetlands Iran has a special position in the world.

She said that based on Ramsar Convention 3.2 resolutions, seven Iranian wetland sites have been listed in the Montreux Record.

Chalmers went to Azerbaijan to participate in a planning and informative workshop on the Lake Orumiyeh basin.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.

Iranian banks reconnect to SWIFT: CBI

Tehran, Jan 17, IRNA – The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) announced on Sunday that the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has removed Iranian banks from its list of sanctioned financial institutions.

‘Iranian banks will be reconnected to SWIFT without discrimination and the main obstacle on the way of Iranian banks’ international links are going to be removed,’ CBI Public Relations Office said in a press release.

The SWIFT’s move came on Implementation Day of the nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which marks lifting the sanctions against Iran.

Minister: Iran, Kazakhstan to expand agricultural cooperation

Tehran, Feb 8, IRNA – Minister of Agricultural Jihad Mahmoud Hojjati announced the mutual will for expansion of cooperation between Iran and Kazakhstan in the fields of investment and trade of agricultural products as well as oversees agriculture projects.

Hojjati made the remarks in a meeting with Minister of Investments and Development of Kazakhstan Asset Issekeshev here on Monday.

Hojjati appreciated Kazakhstan supports for Iran during nuclear negotiations and said that it won’t be forgotten.

He expressed hope that in post-sanctions era Iran can develop its ties with different countries including Kazakhstan in the field of bilateral economic relations.

Minister of Agricultural Jihad said that the two countries have plenty of capacities in the field of agriculture, but limited activities have been done so far in this concern.

He said that Iran could be an exporting bridge between Kazakhstan and other countries.

Answering a question by Kazakh minister concerning ban of imported Russian from Kazakhstan by Iran’s Customs Office, Hojjati said he is not aware about the issue, but added that he will follow up to settle the issue.

In the past several months, Iranian companies have succeeded to reach good agreements with a group of oversees agricultural projects and joint investment by the Kazakh sides.

Meanwhile the Kazakh side is looking for development of its apple gardens, especially modern gardens, which exist in Iran now.

He expressed hope that considering the facilities in the current farming year, Iran can produce apple trees to be planted in Almaty city.

Hojjati also said that Iran is the first producer of unique products in the world and added that currently products like pistachio, raison, date, pomegranate, saffron and apple are produced in the country and Iran by production of 3.400 million tons of apple is one of the biggest producers and exporters in the world.

Hojjati also expressed hope that Iran equips one of its ports for expansion of trade ties with Kazakhstan as well as cooperation in the field of aerial transportation.

Trade minister: Iran links Kazakhstan to high seas

Tehran, Feb 7, IRNA – Industry, Mines and Trade Minister said that Iran is of geopolitical importance for Kazakhstan as it helps the Central Asian country to get connected to the high seas.

‘Iran is the link for Kazakhstan due to its strategic situation and its closeness to the Persian Gulf,’ Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said, addressing Iran-Kazakhstan Trade and Investment Seminar in Tehran on Sunday.

The Iranian industry minister reiterated that Iran’s geopolitical location and it link to the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea has provided our country with special privilege.

Nematzadeh pointed to the ongoing visit of a 260-member Kazakh delegation to Tehran, and said, ‘This is the biggest trade delegation from Central Asia visiting Iran and I am confident that given the two countries’ track record of cultural, religious and historical relations, this visit will help to the trade promotion.’

Chinese private bank opens in Qeshm Island

Qeshm, Feb 6, IRNA – Preliminary agreement for inauguration of a branch of a Chinese private bank in Qeshm Island was signed during a high-ranking Chinese delegation’s visit to the island.

Managing director of Qeshm Free Trade Zone Hamid Reza Momeni said on Saturday that with the inauguration of branch of foreign banks in Qeshm Island, the island will experience an increasing trend in the economic development.

He further noted that the Chinese bank has expressed interest in opening a branch in Qeshm Island and following its inauguration, the country’s insurance office will also become operational in Qeshm Free Zone.

Momeni further noted that the said project will greatly contribute to attracting foreign investors and facilitating investment in the island.

It will also help transfer of some sections of the Chinese markets’ capital to Qeshm which will also help the region’s economic prosperity.

Qeshm Island has major capacities in the oil, gas, foreign trade and tourism sectors and housing free trade zone and it plays a major role in Iran’s economy.


Deputy FM: Failure of Iranophobia scenario great gain of JCPOA

Belgrade, Feb 5, IRNA – Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Danesh Yazdi underlined that breaking the atmosphere of Iranophobia is one the achievements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

‘Breaking the JCPOA atmosphere is an achievement of Iranophobia,’ Danesh Yazdi said on Friday.

In relevant remarks on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the plots against Iran have proven futile and the time for introducing Iran as a threat to world security is over.

‘The international developments during the past few months have provided this opportunity for Iran to defeat the Iranophobia project which had started as of a decade ago,’ Zarif said in a meeting with a group of Iranian expatriates in London.

He said that unfortunately some regional countries intensified the project.

Last month, Zarif voiced pleasure that West’s Iranophobia plots have proven futile and the international community is interested in widening ties with Iran.

‘The constructive policies on preserving the Islamic Revolution’s values made the Iranophobia project to face serious rifts and a widespread interest for cooperation with Iran by the international community to emerge,’ Zarif said.

In relevant statements in August, the Iranian Foreign Minister said that ‘A number of ill-wishers have tried to promote the Iranophobia way of thinking among the regional countries, but we showed in the political scene that this effort is futile and Iran moves in the direction of interaction with other countries.’

He pointed to Iran’s important status in the region, and said, ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran under no circumstances lets any power to threaten its territorial integrity.’

Iran planning to build refineries in six countries

Tehran, Feb 8, IRNA – Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company Hamid Sharif Razi said on Monday that Iran is negotiating with six countries for constructing and buying shares of refineries.

The six countries Iran is seeking partnership in constructing their refineries or buying part of the shares of their refineries are Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Brazil and India, the official said.

Sharif Razi also said that Iran is cooperating with Malaysia in constructing a refinery with the capacity of refining 250,000 b/d.

Malaysia is seeking to develop the refinery to a petro-refinery complex, something that is partly different from Iran’s goals, he said.

A Malaysian delegation is due to visit Iran soon for negotiations on how to continue the cooperation, he added.

He said that Iran’s aim of partnership in developing foreign refineries is to guarantee oil sales and imports of oil products.